Community Voices

South Florida volunteers bring stories to deaf and hard-of-hearing students

Volunteer storyteller Patty Pero signs to deaf students Zahir Brenes, Alexis Simmons and Jesser Ferrary at Auburndale Elementary School in Little Havana at an event hosted by the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association.
Volunteer storyteller Patty Pero signs to deaf students Zahir Brenes, Alexis Simmons and Jesser Ferrary at Auburndale Elementary School in Little Havana at an event hosted by the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Learning to love reading at an early age can make all the difference in a life. This is especially true for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Billy the Marlin and volunteers from the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association recently visited students who are deaf or hard of hearing at Auburndale Elementary School in Little Havana.

They shared tales in American Sign Language to help the children “discover stories that spark their imagination and show them how fun reading can be.”

The children were “super excited,” said volunteer Barbara Chotiner-Solano, a former teacher for hearing-impaired students, in email.

“I have seen first-hand that when read-aloud/ASL sessions are enjoyable, it is more likely the children will retain positive association with books,” she said. “When we finish reading a book in ASL I’ve seen the children hurry to open up their gift bags to read that same book that we just read. It’s my favorite part of the time with the students!”

Chotiner-Solano along with fellow volunteers Patty Pero and Andy Altmann created a reading time that became an impromptu theater performance with the students, in which animals and characters were impersonated.

Billy the Marlin gave each child a baseball-shaped tote bag with a soft baseball, the book that was shared with the group, other books to take home, Christmas hats, and cookies shaped in the “I love you” sign, all thanks to South Florida Deaf Recreation Association.

Also at the story time event was Victor Solano, who is deaf and president of the local Deaf Recreation Association. He believes it is important to give back to the community.

“Providing entertainment and fun set the stage for more language learning at another time with the teachers,” Solano said in email.

His group gives free books, literacy support and school supplies to children who are often underserved in our community as a way to motivate. Solano said in email that he “sees the magic that happens when you give books to children.”

“Eyes sparkle, smiles emerge and imagination comes alive.”

If you would like to help this literacy program continue to serve deaf and hard of hearing students in our community, visit www.sfladra.org.

MOVIEGOERS RAISE FUNDS

The force was with “Star Wars” fans who seek to help others at the Miami premiere of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Baptist Health Foundation and Alvarez Barbara law firm sponsored a private screening held at AMC Sunset Place Theater in South Miami with 250 moviegoers attending.

The audience raised $7,000 to benefit the Miami Cancer Institute scheduled to open in January with “clinical services, cutting-edge technology and a research facility providing access to clinical trials and ground-breaking​ treatments.”

To donate to Miami Cancer Institute and to learn more, visit www.miamicancerinstitute.com.

FASHION SHOW TO HELP KIDS

Save the date of Feb. 24 to attend the exciting fourth annual “Fashion Night on Brickell” to raise funds for Dade Legal Aid’s Put Something Back child advocacy program. Dade Legal aid is a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance free of charge to vulnerable persons who cannot afford an attorney.

“Fashion Night on Brickell” will be held at Brickell Arch in downtown Miami. It is the project of immigration attorney Mayra Joli and blends the forces of fashion and the legal community. Guests will enjoy seeing creations by world-renowned designers as well as a showcase of custom jewelry, local spas and fine accessories.

The event features hundreds of prominent members of the legal community with TV personalities serving as emcees. Tickets are $50 in advance. For more visit www.fashionnightonbrickell.com. To schedule an interview, contact Mayra Joli at 305-722-2828 or 305-722-2830 or mayra@jolilaw.com.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.

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