English-speaking children in U.S. hospitals may take Harry Potter and National Geographic Kids for granted. But for Spanish-speaking patients at UF Health Shands Hospital, a book in their native language is hard to come by.
The UF Hispanic Student Association and UF Mobile Outreach Clinic, a bus that goes around Gainesville providing free primary care, are hosting a book drive for the UF Health Shands pediatric unit this week, said Isabella Oliver, HSA president and 22-year-old UF international studies and political science senior.
They’re asking for Spanish-language children’s books to diversify Shands’ library for Hispanic children. Oliver said the books are important for children and families who do not speak English to have the same resources no matter their background and for families that want to teach their kids about different cultures.
The drive starts Monday and lasts until Sunday. Through Friday, donors can drop books off at the Hispanic-Latino Engagement Center, or La Salita, on the second floor of the Reitz Union. On Sunday, donors can drop off books at the Carnaval Service Day on Hume Field at 11 a.m. Donors can also drop off books during Hispanic Alumni Reunion events this weekend.
Oliver, who was born in Venezuela, spent three days recovering from heart surgery at Miami Children’s Hospital when she was 12. Her mother gave her books in Spanish to keep her mind off treatments and maintain her Spanish fluency.
“You can watch TV shows, any type of different thing that helps keep you distracted from your time at the hospital,” Oliver said. “But, in my opinion, nothing really can take you away from your current situation like a good book.”
Isabel Maldonado, a 22-year-old UF alumna and a care coordinator for the Mobile Outreach Clinic, contacted HSA when a nurse practitioner from the clinic told her the hospital has little to no books in Spanish.
“Knowing how nervous kids can be when they go into the hospital setting, it was really important for me to do something to change that,” Maldonado said.
Carmen Florez, HSA vice president of operations and 21-year-old UF psychology senior, said the book drive is meaningful to her because HSA’s Dance Marathon miracle child is a 1-year-old named Thiago, who is from Venezuela.
Thiago’s family moved to Gainesville to seek better healthcare for his autoimmune disease. Florez said she wants to give families like Thiago’s books to read to their kids.
“This book drive allows these children that are young and are starting this new generation, where we often lose our ability to speak Spanish, to continue to read and practice our language,” she said.
The UF Hispanic Student Association and the Mobile Outreach Clinic are hosting a book drive to collect Spanish children's books for the UF Health Shands pediatric units starting today through Sunday.