New Twist on Book Fair

Taking place until Thursday evening, a book fair at Monterey Hills Elementary School has an international flavor, featuring Korean, Mandarin and Spanish children’s books

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | | Margie Menza, third from left, chair of the Monterey Hills Elementary School Multilingual Book Fair, is joined by a group of MHS students.

One of those “ah-ha” moments is happening at Monterey Hills Elementary School, as Margie Menza wonders why a book fair wasn’t given an international flavor long ago.

“It’s never been done before and it’s shocking it hasn’t,” said Menza, chair of MHS’s spring event which features children’s books featuring three languages – Korean, Mandarin and Spanish.

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | | Margie Menza, chair of the Monterey Hills Elementary School Multilingual Book Fair, helps customers find books.

“It’s one of those things where once you do it, why weren’t we doing it for the past 15 years?” asked Menza who has two students in the South Pasadena Unified School District, including a first grader in the Spanish dual immersion program at Monterey Hills School. “Well, we’ll do it for the next 15.”

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Igniting the idea was a pop-up multilingual book fair one night last May held in conjunction with the Monterey Hills School’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. The event sold out of Spanish books in a couple of hours and the light bulb turned on for Menza. “I thought, ‘there’s a need, there’s a hunger, we didn’t have a book fair here in the spring at the time,’” she recalled. “So, I proposed we do a multilingual fair, not only Spanish. We also have Korean and Mandarin speakers, so I proposed we have a book fair for those three languages in the spring.”

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | | A customer looks over books at the Monterey Hills Elementary School Multilingual Book Fair.

Monterey Hills School Principal Dr. Laurie Narro gave the idea a thumbs up and Menza was off and running.

The international fair, which began on Monday, will be open on Wednesday to 3:30 p.m. and on Thursday to at least 5:30 p.m., perhaps until 6 p.m., if crowds warrant it. It’s open to the public.

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | | Margie Menza, chair of the Monterey Hills Elementary School Multilingual Book Fair, shows books in Korean, Mandarin and Spanish on sale through Thursday evening.

Funds raised will support the school’s library with a focus on purchasing multicultural books “so that all of our students can enjoy them,” said Menza.

“It’s a way to celebrate all the languages spoken at home by many of our students, given our student community here at Monterey Hills,” explained Menza, further talking about its multicultural approach. “I thought it was a good moment for children to feel proud of their heritage.”

Fittingly, the international flavor is in keeping with the way students are learning in today’s environment as Spanish students are engaged at an early age in the district’s dual immersion program at Monterey Hills and Mandarin at Marengo Elementary School.

Menza stressed that families throughout the district are invited to attend the Monterey Hills School Multilingual Book Fair.

“Looking at these books, if it doesn’t make you want to learn another language, I don’t know what will,” said Menza.