On a cold November day, post-American Thanksgiving feasts, kiddos and parents congregated around the checkered blankets held heavy with libros at Bushwick’s Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn, New York City.
November 29, 2015:
The month before last in NYC it was chilly – there was a brisk wind and a group of bundled up kiddos to match. This month, the weekend after Thanksgiving, the playground and park were a bit more vacant than usual. Despite the sunshine, it was very cold, and daylight savings time had diminished the hours of daylight in our usual allotted Picnic time.
That being said, with a fresh volunteer visiting from the west coast and two alumni helpers, we were able to gather a small crew of loyal readers to the picnic blankets and books. Like Picnics past, the readers were majority English and Spanish speakers, a couple of whom had in fact just arrived to the States from the Dominican Republic a few months before. This was a great opportunity for the kids to get hands-on time with English language books, which, though they could not yet read them themselves, were wonderful centers of engagement as we read them aloud.
Also encouraging, and something we’re used to having returned to Maria Hernandez Park for a few months now, was the fact that parents were often lead to the reading blankets by the kids, and not the other way around. Once we let people know that the reading program was taking place, children seemed eager to come read, and would bring their siblings and friends along with them. We even had a couple really little ones join us (with their parents) to look through pictures in the books.
Unlike other Picnics, we did not have any “repeat customers,” so to speak. We did find that parents and children alike were very interested in the flyers this month, which we distributed liberally, and were curious about what dates upcoming we’d be returning. We also found that this month there were families from outside the Bushwick community, one of who (the aforementioned Dominican family) comes to Bushwick only on Sundays, for church.
Though the turnout of readers this month was a little lower than usual, we nonetheless had a productive time in the park, and learned some great lessons about how the frosty weather can affect engagement.