Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Books program aimed at children who are deaf, hard of hearing

Students at Gulfstream Elementary School who are deaf or hard of hearing, (DHH), were surprised by University of Miami Mascot Sebastian at a day to celebrate reading hosted by the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association.
Students at Gulfstream Elementary School who are deaf or hard of hearing, (DHH), were surprised by University of Miami Mascot Sebastian at a day to celebrate reading hosted by the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association.

Books Are Better, a new program to encourage reading for children who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) had a successful start at Gulfstream Elementary School.

The DHH students enjoyed storytelling in sign language, free backpacks with books for their home libraries and sign language pamphlets for their parents, and even had a surprise visit from Sebastian, the University of Miami mascot.

“We had our event and it surpassed our expectations,” Victor Solano, president of the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association, wrote in email. “The children felt so special and they had fun while learning new vocabulary as we shared one of the books in sign language that they were receiving in the new backpacks.”

Members of SFDRA asked the students what Books Are Better means to them.

“One student told us that it means that books are better than math and another told us that books are better than TV and another said that books are better than games. We agree with all of their answers!” Solano wrote.

Patty Pero and Juan Fumero, the sign language storytellers at the event, truly entertained the students. And each free backpack distributed included three books as well as pencils with the sign language alphabet, I Love to Read bookmarks and bracelets, an ILY toy duck, and other goodies to celebrate reading.

“It was a wonderful day and SFDRA is looking forward to visiting other students who are deaf or hard of hearing in their schools in the fall,” Solano wrote.

The mission of the new Books Are Better program is to help provide “a supportive team to educate a child who is deaf or hard of hearing so that he or she may realize his or her potential and become a contributing member of the community.”

According to Project Director Barbara Chotiner, “not all children, especially children with hearing loss, have access to a requisite reading-rich environment.” In fact, studies show that deaf children are read to less often than their hearing peers.

According to the new program’s initiative, “Opportunities to read and enjoy books alone, with friends and with teachers and family members are important learning experiences for all children. In the modern world, success depends upon literacy, a fact especially true for deaf children who, if they read and write well, can take full advantage of email, the Internet, and other communication innovations. Through Books Are Better, parents will discover how to create environments at home and in their community for fostering their child’s literacy potential.”

To learn more about Books Are Better and the South Florida Deaf Recreation Association, write to and visit


Stuart Z. Grossman has been named a director of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a group limited to 500 trial lawyers worldwide. Membership is by invitation only and both sides of the Bar are represented.

“I am honored to be appointed to this leadership position within such a prestigious organization,” he said in a news release. “I look forward to working with the Board of Directors and members to continue fostering our mission to facilitate the administration of justice and elevate the standards of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession.”

HistoryMiami also recently recognized Grossman, a co-founder of the law firm Grossman Roth, P.A., as a Legal Legend. The Legal Legend honorees are selected from a prestigious group of nominees who have shaped South Florida’s legal community for more than 25 years. For more visit


Help disadvantaged women by supporting the Civic Chorale of Greater Miami and Miami Dade College, Kendall Campus, upcoming concert titled “AMEN.” Proceeds benefit the Footprints Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering and educating women with a mission of “Saving women and children one little footprint at a time.”

The concert will be 4 p.m. April 26 at the William and Joan Lehman Theater Miami Dade College, North Campus, 11380 NW 27th Ave. Dr. Kenneth Boos is the event’s artistic director and Dr. Robert Gower is associate conductor. Tickets are available at or at the box office. Cost for adults is $10; seniors, $8; students with ID, $5; and children 6 and under are admitted free.

The Civic Chorale of Greater Miami has been a part of the South Florida’s musical community since 1970 when University of Miami Music Professor Lee Kjelson founded the group. Members are students and adults who share a love for singing. The Civic Chorale is housed at the Miami Dade College Music, Theater & Dance Department, Kendall Campus.


Happy 40th birthday to the In-School Opera Program sponsored by the Young Patronesses of the Opera. Since the program’s inception in 1975, opera has been brought to an estimated 500,000 elementary schoolchildren, and many have had an experience they might never have otherwise had.

YPO has more than 100 volunteer women helping to raise funds to cultivate and promote a love of opera in our community. The group also has the mission to support the Florida Grand Opera through awareness and education.

It all started when YPO President Loraine Kayal, 1975-76, helped the program offer a professional performance of Hansel and Gretel to children in our community. It was so well received that the performance went on the road and performances have been held in elementary schools ever since.

The group lost its producer emeritus, Louise P. Todaro, this past year at the age of 90. Todaro spent over 30 years as producer and chair of the In-School Opera program. In 2007, she became producer emeritus when she turned over the reigns to her daughter, YPO Past President Julie Todaro. Her legacy will live on in the school program she expanded to be the success it is today.

Over the years, many YPO members have generously donated their time and talent to serve as assistant producers and technical directors. Dr. Warren Broome has been the musical and artistic director since 1975. Then the chorus master and assistant conductor of the Greater Miami Opera, he agreed to be the musical and artistic director. Even with a busy career working at the University of Miami and in many theaters throughout South Florida, he continues his role today, commuting from Kentucky.

In 2002, Sandy Barrow joined the team as technical director and has been invaluable to the group creating costumes, delivering sets, overseeing set-ups and teardowns, and is the liaison between the cast and YPO.

To learn more visit http:/ This nonprofit organization relies on donations and grants to fulfill their mission. Members also hold voice competitions and Girl Scout Workshops among many other projects.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at