New York: full of stories


We’re inching toward becoming a park staple, with increased engagement as the last weekends of summer break rolled around. Might require some additions to our “cadre” of picnic blankets! Always an encouraging sign.  By: Emily Pelleryn



The air has not quite cooled off in New York City… and yet, we found our beautiful patch of shade a couple weekends back at Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn, settled in, and hosted a bustling rotation of kiddos for the August rendition of Picnic de Palabras.

Wet from playing in the park’s fountain, some readers brought over their towels and set up their own “mats” next to ours, bringing books to their spaces and extending our footprint. Others, as was the case last time, too, carried books – as if checking them out from the library themselves – to their families’ areas, reading there and coming back multiple times for fresh stories.


We had some wonderful picture books this Picnic, with the breadth of children’s literature expanded by having a larger crew pick books from the library this month. That’s a diversity we’re hoping to maintain – the more perspectives we can bring to the library/Picnic blanket, the better! It was encouraging, too, to see some kids reach for more challenging books, as we had some early reader chapter options alongside the usual elementary-aged books.


There were fresh faces all around (readers and park goers)… and we’re thinking next Picnic might call for some new blankets, as attention to the program has grown since last month! We anticipate wonderful fall weather moving into September – always a great sign to populate the Bushwick park where we lay our books. Till then!

Summer in the City: Picnic de Palabras Brooklyn 

By: Emily Pellerin

Working up to June’s edition of Picnic de Palabras, we were anticipating grueling heat, and were unsure of how that would affect our audience at the park. Luckily, the day was absolutely beautiful, the park was crowded, and the shade was ample.

This was the first time in the Brooklyn Picnic’s short history that there were more volunteers than there were readers, making for a funny demography on the picnic blankets. That didn’t deter the kiddos from coming around — as usual, there were cousins in pairs, some solo readers, parents and little ones, and whole families who joined us to read. There was even an avid reader who brought his furry friend to the picnic blankets: Pancho, the (reading) rabbit!


One newly observed relationship to the program was that some shyer children were hesitant to come over and read with/to us, but asked to carry books with them to read in their own spaces. Like a mini library in the park, a few kiddos would bring books back to their own blankets, read them, and return to choose another once they were done.


This month, we incorporated books for children whose stories were entwined with writers of classic literature: Zora Neale Hurston-curated short stories, a Virginia Woolf parody, an MLK speech transcribed for kids; we also included books in Cantonese, along with those in Spanish and English, as we’ve noticed the breadth of bilingualism in the park is expanded beyond just Spanish- and English-speakers. The culturally rich neighborhood of Bushwick again proved itself a wonderful host for our Picnic de Palabras.


This month we were lucky that Yaco of Picnic de Palabras Bogotá was visiting! Upcoming in August, Picnic de Palabras Brooklyn will host Mary Murphy Wong, a longtime New York resident and storyteller.

Spring allows Picnic de Palabras in NY


The weather allows Picnic de Palabras NY to share readings and love with their readers. By: Emily Pellerin

The launch of Picnic de Palabras Brooklyn took place last weekend in Maria Hernandez Park. Though the lay of the park was the same as we left it last fall (having gone on hiatus for the cold season), the energy within it was more boisterous and kinetic than I felt like we’d ever experienced.


After laying down the books across our few checkered blankets and welcoming our first guests of the day (and of the season!), the same contagiousness of curiosity that we remember from last season was quickly at play. The small parcel of blankets was buzzing with tons of new kids; as usual, we found that lots of readers came with their cousins, siblings, or the like. There were even a couple familiar faces from last year’s Picnics!

Wonderfully, this time around we noticed an increased interest from the parents of the children participating. A handful of them were very interested in staying in-the-know about next month’s Picnic, as well, granting us the opportunity to connect on an additional level going forward (via email or phone).


With the children as well as with the parents, as is consistent from last year, the majority of our readers were bilingual. One girl, Jenny, elementary aged, came by with her younger sister. They began wanting to be read to, but by the end of their time on the Picnic blankets with books in hand, they began reading to us!

We ended up extending our group beyond the perimeter of the blankets, and even had a group choreographing and cartwheeling by the end of the program. It was a playful, laughter-filled, and reading-loving group.

The weather last weekend couldn’t have greeted our season launch more generously – and neither could have the community of Bushwick, Brooklyn. We can’t wait till next month to further connect with the children of the area over literature, and to offer them the space to recognize how fun, interactive, and bonding the act of reading can be. Of course, we could “offer” for eternity, but it’s their participation, eagerness and powerful childlike energy that grant Picnic de Palabras its purpose.

Winter time in Picnic de Palabras NY

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:

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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.

The autumn starts around Picnic de Palabras NY

The weather could be our best allied or our worst enemy. By: Emily Pellerin

Sunday, September 27: Maria Hernandez Park, Brooklyn, New York; USA

image3This Picnic de Palabras was the first of the brisk fall season – with glorious weather, we were in just as glorious spirits and found the families in the park to be so, as well. Once we set up blankets and lay out the books, though, we found that no one (as we’d been lucky to have experienced before) came running by their own curious volition. So, we set about the park inviting families and kids over. Once a small crew gathered, others joined and there began a nice coming and going of kids and parents.

We were encouraged to find that most of the families that came by Picnic were new, having not seen us in the park before, and were excited about the program. We’re hoping to see some of the same faces at the upcoming Picnic.

image1Likewise, we were encouraged to find that not just English- and Spanish-speaking families were coming by the blankets to read (as is usually the case). There were bilingual Asian kids and a bilingual French family, all from the neighborhood. We’re hoping that the upcoming Picnics can continue to see a diverse cultural and ethnic attendance.

It was, as it always is, rewarding for the kids (they always want to keep their favorite books!) and for the volunteers (some of whom were new last month). The next Picnic – we await another beautiful, brisk fall day full of children’s literature and community.

Second Time: New Kids and “Repeat Customers” in New York City

We received the last news from our last new born Picnic de Palabras in New York. In this city, bilingual and multicultural meetings have taken place in a public park, where kids cannot believe yet this is happening. On top of that, Picnic comes again once per month. From: Emily Pellerin

Picnic de Palabras: Sunday August 23rd, 2015

The second Picnic de Palabras at Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood was as much of a success as the first. We got set up, laying down our “picnic” mats and books, and, unlike last month, no one approached us at first.

With a new suite of volunteers on board (Nicky and Diego came to read alongside Cole and me), we took to approaching the families stationed around the park near us. Parents seemed more than eager to send their kids to read with us, and very interested in the fact that we were going to be a monthly outpost.

One of the most encouraging things about this month was that there were children who remembered us from last. If we are receiving “repeat customers” after just a month, imagine how flourishing the project can be after a season’s worth of Picnic!

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Last time, we noted that kids (especially boys) gravitated toward books based off of movies or televisions shows, ones with illustrations of superheroes or other characters that they recognized. With that in mind, I brought a heavy selection of those “movies to books” easy-readers, of course in addition to books by some of our favorite children’s books authors (Patricia Polacco, Tommy dePaola, H.A. Rey, etcetera). Though these books again received a ton of attention, this was a lesson learn on our part, for they were poorly written and did not necessarily offer robust lessons or even inspiring illustrations.

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Once again, the kids who came by to read were majority, if not exclusively, Hispanic, and came with their cousins and siblings beside them. The family-oriented character of this park reaffirms us each Picnic that it’s a great one to return to. Also again, kids were enthused enough about the books that they wanted to take them home!

It was a sweet and eager crowd, ebbing and flowing participants throughout the couple hours, which we this time left armed with flyers to remind them of the next date we’d be reading. We’ll be looking out for our “repeat customers” just as we hope they’ll be looking out for us!

The Inaugural Picnic Palabras, New York City

We are so proud because Picnic de Palabras is not only crossing frontiers but also languages. Reading is everywhere as magic, and only come true through people who believe. By: Emily Pellerin

On Sunday, July 26, we headed out to Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn, New York City to launch Picnic Palabras in the United States. There we found sno-cones, fountains, a skate park, a playground, and tons of (unknowingly!) eager kiddos, sated ith sno-cones, but craving a good story.

At the beginning opicnic ny 1f the summer, we began the search for the perfect park in which to host the U.S.’s first Picnic Palabras. The Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick presented us with an indisputably ideal spot — the lively, family-filled Maria Hernandez Park. Having Emilia from the Quito “chapter” of Picnic here in NYC this summer really got the ball rolling, and we’re proud to say that we finally launched the Brooklyn edition of Picnic Palabras this past Sunday, July 26!

The reception was incredible. Upon laying down mats and books, a pair of cousins immediately (though timidly) made their way over to check out what was going on. We invited them over, and Cole seemed to have made best friends with them within minutes. Others came over, as usually happens, once the pioneers sat down with books in hand. The crowd of children, which reflected pretty accurately the demographic of the park’s guests as a whole, was almost exclusively Hispanic. From what I gathered, the children were mostly, if not all, bilingual. There were some older kids (pre-teenagers, maybe) and a few preschool aged kiddos, though the majority of stoppers-by were elementary aged.

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Armed with the suggestions of other Picnic Palabras volunteers, we were able to source a diverse (thematically, difficulty-wise, and linguistically) selection of books that the kids seemed to be very excited about. Some enjoyed being read to, and others reading to themselves or to one another. (Curious George made quite the rounds!)

Though we didn’t interact much with parents, we liberally let the readers know that we’d be back in a month. Many of the kids were reticent (which I would consider natural for young kids in new situations) but their appreciation of the event was nonetheless discernible.

The most reassuring commentary came from a young boy who asked us how long we would be in the park with the books. When we told him only two hours, he looked up, concerned, and replied, “That’s all?” His discontent with the fleeting “library” was heartening, and spoke to the general enthusiasm for the project that we hope, and which I feel was evidenced, each of the children in attendance had felt.