Santa Clara United Methodist Church’s Free Family Storytime Welcomes All Families
Story and Photos by Cynthia Cheng

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Santa Clara United Methodist Church’s Free Family Storytime Welcomes All Families

On June 20, local families stopped by for a free family storytime group, usually meeting twice a week, at the Santa Clara United Methodist Church (www.santaclaraumc.com).

Mothers and their children trickled into the church nursery and busied themselves with toys and games. Next, Julia Borjeson, the church’s lay pastor and children's ministries director, led the children through circle time with songs and storytime. Today’s read-aloud story was “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush” (retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola), a story about a Native American boy who painted. A painting activity in the Sunday School classroom followed. Then families shared snacks outside in the cooling shade of a tall tree by the playground.

“The purpose of this program is to reach our community’s families with children,” Borjeson said. “We could see moms coming to our playground and people would ask if we have a preschool because of our playground. We saw that there was a need in the community and we got our heads together and came up with family storytime so that people from every culture with every language can participate. We have a new pastor–Pastor Vathanak Heang–who brought a new vitality to our church. One of his awesome ideas was to reach out to our community with this program.”

Families from all religions and backgrounds are welcome to attend the storytime. Borjeson described these meetings that she leads as being secular and non-religious. But she concentrates on the universal values of morals, manners and kindness. Having grown up in a multicultural environment in San Jose, Borjeson shared that she tries to embrace everyone’s culture.

“The kids’ ages who come here range from one-and-a-half-years to first graders who come back to visit,” Borjeson said. “These moms are raising preschoolers and trying to teach them about American culture and English. I decided to start this group where we read the kids stories and that expanded to pre-K preparedness. I always have a story for the children and a craft and then this ends with a snack. This program is free. The moms bring snacks from home. It’s a good fellowship. It started off with about four to five kids but, now on a good day, we’d get about 25 kids and their parents and grandparents.”

Sidra Irshad, currently a Santa Clara resident, has been coming to the family storytime group with her daughter for about a year.

“I love that it’s so entertaining for kids here,” Irshad said. “Kids learn a lot here. For example, my daughter has learned about painting and new stories. Since coming here, she likes to ask more questions. We’re moving to Fremont next month. So we’ll miss the activities, the art, the snacks and the friends here.”

This free program is in its third year. Santa Clara Methodist Church is located at 1700 Lincoln St., Santa Clara. For more information and to confirm meeting dates and times for the family storytime group call Borjeson: 408-375-8554.