La Princesa and The Pea


La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Matinez-Neal, is an award winning picture book that is a great example of sprinkling Spanish throughout an English story. I am a big fan of Susan Middleton Elya’s picture books and I use them quite often in my bilingual storytimes. They are easy to follow and are great for focusing on Spanish vocabulary. This story gives a Latino twist to the classic “Princess and the Pea” tale by having it take place in Peru.

The influence of Peru art and culture can be clearly seen throughout the story through the bright textiles of the indigenous clothing that the characters wear. I really enjoyed reading this book as I find the art style quite captivating. There is also a handy glossary at the beginning of the story to help pronounce the Spanish words and a small excerpt at the end that talk about which villages in Peru inspired the look of the characters!

I recommend this book for a family or preschool storytime as it might be a little to long for some of our younger storytime goers.


You and Me/ Tú y yo


You and Me/ Tú y Yo, illustrated by Rachel Fuller and translated by Teresa Mlawer, tells the story of the bond between a new baby and their sibling. This is an easy to read, bilingual board book that is great for a bilingual baby/toddler storytime.

This story covers the excitement that comes with having a new baby brother or sister, along with the tough times that can be caused by sibling rivalry. It is not always sunshine and butterflies for these siblings and this book gives caregivers a good opportunity to discuss how to handle situations in which you and your sibling may not get along.

The illustrations are well done and have a crayon drawing feel to them. Overall I thought it was a very cute book and I think any parents with young children will appreciate its simple message.

Halloween/ Día De Las Brujas

This storytime is designed as a Baby/Toddler storytime, but can be adjusted for older children as well.

Welcome Song:

José Luis Orozco — Buenos Dias

Song: (Pass out Shakers) Shake Your Sillies Out ( I usually use the version by Raffi)


Book 1: Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Yuyi Morales

Fingerplay: Itsy Bitsy Spider

The itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the water spout
Down came the rain
And washed the spider out
Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain
And the itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again

 Fingerplay: Arana Pequeñita

La arana pequeñita subió, subió, subió.
Vino la lluvia y se la llevó.
Salió el sol y todo lo secó.
Y la araña pequeñita subió, subió, subió.


Rhyme: 5 Little Pumpkins

Five little pumpkins sitting on the gate,

The first one said, “Oh, my it’s getting late.”

The second one said, “There are witches in the air.”

The third one said, “But we don’t care.”

The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run.”

The fifth one said, “let’s have some fun.”

Ooooo! Went the wind, and out went the light.

And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!


Book 2: Boo! = Bu! by  Leslie Patricelli

Fingerplay: Mi Carita Redondita (Tune of Darling Clementine)

Mi carita redondita,  (My round face)

tiene ojos y nariz,  (has eyes and a nose)

y tambien una boquita   (and also a mouth)

para cantar y reir.  (to sing and laugh)

Con mis ojos veo todo  (With my eyes I see everything)

con mi nariz hago atchis!   (with my nose I go achoo)


Goodbye Song: José Luis Orozco — Adios Amigos

Here is a list of other goodbye songs as well.




Music is a great way to introduce children to Spanish. It is also a great way to reinforce a native language. I always recommend a good mix of translated songs and traditional Spanish songs. Parents are a great resource and many of these songs were suggested to me by the very families that come and enjoy the storytime.

Welcome/Goodbye Songs:

Buenos Días- José Luis Orozco

Adios Amigos- José Luis Orozco

Entre Mas Nos Reunimos

Tengo Una Historia

Traditional Spanish Songs/ Rhymes:

Diez Deditos- José Luis Orozco

Saco Mi Manito

Duérmete mi niño

Juanito Cuando Baila- José Luis Orozco

Cinco Elefantes(5 Elephants)

Los Pollitos Dicen

Debajo un Botón

Mi Cuerpo Hace Música

Tortillitas (Rhyme)

Bate Bate Chocolate

Que llueva, que llueva

Translations of Popular Children’s Songs

¿Estrellita, Dónde Estás? (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)

Araña Pequeñita (Itsy Bitsy Spider)

Original Songs (not created by me)

Red Is Rojo

Here are some great websites for finding bilingual storytime songs as well as just storytime songs in general:

CLEL StoryBlocks


Canta Maestra

Canciones y Cuentos: Songs and Rhymes for Bilingual Storytimes | Libro por libro


El Día de los Niños/El Día de los Libros

Spanish Playground

But What If I’m Not Bilingual?

One of the biggest challenges that I hear when it comes to bilingual storytimes is “I don’t know a second language, so I can’t offer it at my library”. While it is harder to present a bilingual storytime when you’re not bilingual, it isn’t impossible. I often let monolingual colleagues know that there are several different ways to engage your bilingual patrons without having to learn a whole new language.

Sprinkle Some Spanish

One of the easier ways to engage your Spanish speaking audience is by sprinkling some Spanish words into your storytime. This could be as simple as reading a book that has a few Spanish words, interacting with the audience by asking “what is the Spanish word for…” or even using a CD with the Spanish version of one of your storytime songs. Most popular children songs are translated into Spanish and since the tune is the same, it will be easier to follow along even if you don’t know all the words. Even just saying “Hola” at the beginning of your hello song can be a welcomed addition.

Keep in mind that just because you sprinkle a few Spanish words here and there, that unless your storytime is at least 50% Spanish then you can’t really call it a bilingual storytime, but it is still a great opportunity to engage your Spanish speaking community.

Here are some sprinkle Spanish books that I would recommend. Most of these authors have several books that only have some Spanish. If you know of any others, please write them in the comments:

Fiesta Babies by Carmen Tafolla

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales —

Oh No, Gotta Go! by Susan Middleton Elya

Green is a Chili Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

How Do you Say? ¿Como Se Dice? by Angela Dominguez

Marta! Big & Small by Angela Dominguez

Get Some Help From Bilingual Staff or Volunteers

Bilingual paraprofessional and clerical staff can truly be a blessing. If possible, you can get a bilingual staff member to help you present the storytime with you. There a couple different formats that you can use if you have someone else helping you. The Utah State Library actually breaks it down in this article on how to do a bilingual storytime with two people.

Another option is to recruit a bilingual volunteer. Many adults or even teens are more than happy to help conduct a bilingual storytime and it can often be a great opportunity to try and recruit some of the parents and caregivers who often bring their children to the library.


Why is Bilingual Storytime Important?

Bilingual Storytime is by far one of my favorite library programs. I love being able to read Spanish books to children, share traditional Spanish songs and even do some bilingual finger plays. There is no greater joy then seeing a child’s eyes light up when they hear their native language. Some children only get to experience their native tongue at home, so it is always a nice surprise to them when they get to hear it out in the world. Likewise, parents  and caregivers get an opportunity to practice their English and share a part of the culture with their children.

Bilingual storytime is important because it shows children that their culture is welcomed in the library and that it is an integral part of their lives. Bilingual storytime also promotes early language learning; the younger you are, the easier it is to pick up a second language which will help tremendously in the future. I often get asked by parents and caregivers, “but won’t my child get stuck? Will they be able to learn English correctly?” I always answer with an enthusiastic YES! It is a common misconception that learning another language at a young age will confuse a child, but research has shown that that is not the case. In fact, being bilingual gives children a great advantage when it comes to language acquisition.

I have gathered a variety of tips and tricks to help you get started on presenting a bilingual storytime. I hope these resources will help you gain the confidence to present this wonderful program at your library or maybe even add something new to your existing program. ¡Vamonos!


Linguistic Insecurity:

A lot of people who are bilingual suffer from linguistic insecurity. Linguistic Insecurity is when someone lacks confidence or has anxiety experienced by speakers or writers of a language who believe that their use of language does not conform top the standard use of that language.

I suffered from linguistic insecurity throughout most of my childhood and young adulthood. As a librarian, I had to overcome my anxiety in order to show my audience that there is no problem with making mistakes when learning a second language. Children can pick up on your anxious feelings so it is important to keep that in mind when presenting a bilingual storytime.


There are a couple different formats that you can present your bilingual storytime. Here are the ones that are recommended by a presentation at the Second Reforma National Conference:

Format 1—Alternating Languages

  • The book is read one page at a time; first read the page in one language and then read the same page in the other language.
  • This format works best with two people—two voices.
  • Good books:  A bicycle for Rosaura / Rosaura en bicicleta by Daniel Barbot.

Format 2—One at a Time

  • The entire book is read in one language and then the same book is read in the other language.
  • This format works best with short stories and short songs.  It is preferably done with two people, but can be done by one person.
  • Good books:  I hear a noise by Diane Goode.  10 little rubber ducks / 10 patitos de goma by Eric Carle.
  • Good songs:  Good morning / Buenos días by José Luis Orozco
  • NOTE:  A variation of this format is to read one entire book in one language and then a different book in the other language.  This works well with older bilingual audiences; one person can read both languages.

Format 3—Dominant Language

  • The book is read predominantly in one language with key words or phrases repeated (emphasized) in the other language.
  • This format works very well when the reader is not fluent in the second language, but is willing to learn key words or phrases.
  • Good books:  Uno, dos, tres / One, two, three by Pat Mora.  Chato’s kitchen by Gary Soto.  Fiesta fiasco by Ann Whitford Paul.

Format 4—Code-Switching

  • The book is presented by switching from one language to the other while still maintaining the grammatical consistency of both languages.
  • This format works best with one bilingual reader comfortable switching languages back and forth.
  • Good books:  Borreguita and the coyote by Verna Aardema.