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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Sharing Our Stories: Paula

Every two weeks, Book Babies team member Paula Espinosa heads to the pediatric waiting room at Lincoln Community Health Center for storytime. When you think of storytime, you might imagine a library or other community location, where parents come each week at a regular time with their children for a regularly scheduled group. But storytime at a health center is different: each week, Paula meets different children and families who are there for checkups or sick visits, and her participants come and go as they’re called for their appointments throughout storytime. But even with such a changeable crowd, Paula sees community building over the months.

She sometimes meets families who are enrolled in the Book Babies program, and they’re surprised to learn about this additional piece of the Book Harvest portfolio. She has even been able to reconnect with some Book Babies families who have lost contact with the program for one reason or another. Paula says that it’s great for Book Babies families to see us in a space where they already are, building a connection with the wider Book Harvest community. It’s also a great opportunity to invite new families to enroll in Book Babies and to share reading resources and tips with parents.

One of Paula’s favorite moments came on a day when there were lots of kids in the waiting room ranging in age from 7 months to 10 years old.  When she arrived, she turned off the television and made an announcement inviting them to join her. “Everyone rushed in,” she says. “It felt like Sunday school!” Parents were curious, too, and one dad even took out his phone to record a video. Most families were bilingual, so Paula read in English and Spanish. One 6-year-old girl didn’t speak Spanish, but that didn’t stop her from participating. In fact, she began repeating the Spanish words and started learning the language right on the spot! “It was really great how we were all able to learn in different ways,” shares Paula.

The value of those moments in the waiting room isn’t lost on the providers in the clinic, either. “Book Harvest has made a huge impact on our Pediatric patients and their families. They are thrilled to be able to read these books in the clinic as well as take them home and as a provider, I love the teaching moment of helping a child give up the screen and take a book instead,” says Dr. Shilpah Shah, a pediatrician at Lincoln. And it’s not just during storytime that kids at Lincoln have access to free books, or course. For the past five years, we have stocked a free bookshelf in the pediatric waiting room, and in 2019 alone, children have taken home 7,982 books from that shelf.

Want to help keep the bookshelf stocked and storytime hopping at places like Lincoln Community Health Center? Your year-end donation will help support programs like our Community Book Bank and Book Babies, building community and supporting children and families in their growth as readers.

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