Storytelling and crafts at the LL Museum of Heritage and Arts


Storytelling time for pre-school children at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts is much more than just reading a book to them.


It helps build a foundation for their education, said Cynthia Shetter, director of the Los Lunas Library.
Every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., the museum holds a storytelling and crafts hour, at no charge, for pre-school children and their parents.
The stories are read by museum and library staff including Librarian Heather Maez, Museum Technician Rico Gonzales, Museum Specialist Andrea Chavez, photographer and oral history transcriber B.G. Burr and Shetter.
The craft period offers a hands-on experience of the story theme.
Last week, the children and their guardians sat around as B. G. Burr, sat in front of the fireplace, as he read Anne F. Rockwell’s book, “Thanksgiving Day.”
Lively interaction with the children was initiated by Burr as he pointed to the pictures in the book and asked them questions.
The late James Fernandez and museum volunteer, Carol Rechkemmer started the program two summers ago to draw children and their parents into the museum.
“This program draws them in to photography, painting, history, so it exposes them to some cultural aspects of the community at an early age,” Shetter said, “as well as building their listening and reading skills, and social skills communicating with other children.”
Breanna Dominguez is a very shy 3-year-old, her mother Haydee Dominguez said, but coming to the storytelling hour has helped her open up and play with the other children.
As Breanna becomes involved in the story, her shy demeanor begins to dissolve. She boldly inspects 4-year-old Luis Chavez, who is also shy, but has become animated as he is swept up in the story.
He enthusiastically answers questions posed by the storyteller.
“It’s good for socializing, it’s good for their skills,” said Vicky Ulibarri, grandmother of 3-year-old Anagrace Garcia. “At first, I was thinking, ‘Gee, this is really tough,’ because I was doing all the work. Then, after a while, she started picking up the scissors, the crayons and pencils, the glue. It was a gradual thing, but she learned to get involved with the project, too.”
For young children who don’t have social skills outside their families, breaking into the unknown can be challenging enough, let alone learning new skills. But the story time program offers the opportunity for parents to prepare their child before they will start school.
“It’s a great program,” Dominguez said. “We love it.”
The crafts help them practice their hand and eye coordination and make abstract principles into tangible forms.
“It gives the parents an outlet, too,” said Shetter. “It’s social interaction for the parents and grandparents.”
The program really has an impact on the children, and it’s one more way of fulfilling the village’s mission to make the community better for everyone, Shetter said.
“You want the kids raised here to stay here,” Shetter said. “A perfect example is Rico and Heather. They were both raised here in Valencia County, and now they’re giving back to the community because they’ve had a positive imprint.”
Maez has a bachelor’s degree in theater, and Gonzales has a bachelor’s in philosophy.
“I tell stories, too,” said Gonzales. “I worked as an educator for APS (Albuquerque Public Schools) for two years, mostly in elementary schools in the South Valley, and also Highlands High School. I worked in the library.
“As far as reading, culture and giving back to our community, I feel that philosophy really widened my perspective on universality and culture.”
Gonzales has done extensive research on many of the families and cultural traditions that make up the community.
The stories are always very age-appropriate and short, and the staff always get the children involved, said Ulibarri.
“One of Anagrace’s favorite was a story about a spider’s wedding,” Ulibarri said. “She enjoyed it so much, she wanted me to go to the library and check it out.”
“And Breanna’s favorite was the one about the pirates,” Dominguez said. “So much that she had to dress up for Halloween as a pirate, and she got a book, movies — you name it. She was so into it.”

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