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The Power of Bilingual Musical Storytime

For children at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Bilingual Musical Storytime is more than just a chance to listen to music — it’s also an opportunity to learn more about their world.

What is Bilingual Musical Storytime?

Bilingual Musical Storytime is a monthly JoyRx Music-hosted event that provides hospitalized kids a space to enjoy music, stories, and history in both English and Spanish.

Lasting about thirty minutes, Musical Storytime focuses on a theme JoyRx chooses for the month. Themes range from history-based themes, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Women’s History Month, to holiday themes, such as a winter theme in December or a Valentine’s Day theme in February.

Working Together for the Kids

JoyRx Music Specialists Cristina and Jean love hosting this event together. Both specialists were elementary school teachers in the past, so they say that Bilingual Storytime is an enjoyable way to use their experience to engage and make learning fun and interactive for the kids they serve.

Jean’s favorite part is how she and Cristina incorporate the songs and books to make connections to everyday life. “There’s so much. Our world, friendships, family, love, kindness, history, etc.,” she said. “Each month, we focus on a holiday or special theme and make that connection with the kids.”

Both Cristina and Jean agree that working together as a team benefits them and the kids. “I love the fact that I get to work alongside my partner, Jean,” said Cristina. “I love Storytime and music, as they go hand-in-hand and are super beneficial for the kids.”

Jean agrees. “We make it very joyful with the music and take turns reading in English and Spanish,” she explained. “We ask questions of each other about favorite parts of the book or song and invite the kids to join us in their thoughts.”

The back-and-forth interaction between Jean and Cristina helps create an inviting environment for the children listening. The two will take turns reading the themed books, playing background music, or leading the kids in a song that relates to the theme.

“I am all about inclusivity, accepting differences, and peace,” said Cristina. “And it’s important to us to share these messages.”

What are the Themes?

Jean says she loves finding books and songs to fit each theme.

In January, our musicians read Martin’s Big Words in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The children’s book tells the story of how King fought for justice and civil rights.

Then for Women’s History Month in March, they read Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, a story inspired by Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers.

In May, our music specialists read Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho as part of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

JoyRx Music celebrated Juneteenth in June, singing “Peace is Flowing Like a River” and “Waiting on the World to Change” while sharing two stories, Change Sings and Freedom Rings.

Why the Storytime Matters

On the surface, what looks like a fun way to spend half an hour is also a profoundly enriching experience for the kids.

For many children undergoing inpatient care, disruption of routine is common. Children are pulled from their lives to receive life-saving medicine and undergo long treatments. While this isolation is necessary for their health, it can impact their emotional wellness. Some hospitalized kids can’t go to school, visit with friends, or do everyday activities that many families take for granted.

So, activities like Bilingual Musical Storytimes create a bridge for the kids, bringing back regularity in their day-to-day lives. Making learning fun, interactive, and low-pressure is a great way to help children feel engaged.

Cristina agrees, especially when it comes to the needs of Spanish-speaking families. “I’ve seen firsthand the difficulties that Spanish-speaking families who are in the hospital go through,” she said. “Being in the hospital is already a scary situation, and not knowing or being able to communicate without an interpreter just adds to it. I love that Storytime can add a sense of comfort for these families.”

That inclusivity is an important thing for the kids to see, too. “Jean and I are from different cultures,” Cristina explained. “And I love that I get to represent the Latino community and can really connect to them. Kids seeing that is so beneficial.”

“The Storytime programming brings a sense of normalcy in scary or unfamiliar surroundings,” explained Jean. “It’s a chance for learning and a chance for singing together as a family.”

This duo working together makes for a wonderful, engaging activity for the kids — and one that they look forward to hosting each month.

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