CASA CUNA CUENTEROS is a group of volunteer storytellers who work for free at “Dr. Pedro de Elizalde (former Casa Cuna) Children’s Hospital” in Buenos Aires City, Argentina. The group was formed on July the 25th 2013. It is currently formed by sixteen active members. Three of them are the coordinators and group-founders in charge of the project: Verónica Álvarez Rivera and Alejandra Alliende ( storytelling coordinators), and Lic. Laura Ormando ( psychological counseling and Child Psychologist at Pedro Elizalde Children’s Hospital). Casa Cuna Cuenteros visit different areas of the hospital on a weekly basis. The age group of the children who enjoy our storytime sessions range from 0 to 18 years of age.
Casa Cuna Cuenteros springs up by the need and interest of creating a healthy space of Reading Promotion at the Hospital - a place where literature books are rare. As a general rule, at the hospital, parents do not read stories to their children, they simply give them their mobile phones to play with as they wait to be assisted. This situation, proper of our current digital times, is what usually happens while waiting for medical treatments and hospitalization. Screens become the entertaining devices that allow children to “pass the time” as they wait long hours at a place where waiting-time seems endless. Once we realized that story books were disregarded by the families and children who go to the Hospital we asked ourselves what the reasons were for this to be so. Next, we decided to ask children and families what they thought about books and this is what they said: 4“Books are for those who know how to read and I can’t read”, answered a little girl. “Books are boring. They are school-like”, answered a little boy. “Books are for doctors who study” one mother said. “Books are difficult” added a grandfather. In the eyes of the Hospital’s population, books were not the bearers of wonderful tales, nor love nor humorous stories - for them, books were a means of learning new things and far too complex to be taken into account. These thoughts have their roots in the personal lives of the people who go to the public hospital: they come from vulnerable areas and they carry personal life stories of violence, abuse, poverty and violated rights. Many of them, not only parents but also children, were forced to drop out of school in order to work for a living or to take care of younger siblings. For theses reasons, books are considered as objects for those who can go to school, those who can study. Books are regarded as the privilege of a minority. Once we fully understood the situation we came up with the idea of creating a place where books could circulate in a different way. A place where books could reach everyone. Through storytime sessions this could be achieved. We decided to take a chance to make our dream come true. Even though Casa Cuna Cuenteros activities take place in a healthcare environment what we do is far from a psychotherapeutic treatment. From our point of view, our storytime sessions provide the hospital community with the opportunity to become open to oral expression and to become acquainted with books and stories. Taking health and literature as a framework, we provide the necessary conditions to foster expression and human bonding among the people who attend the Children’s Hospital - doctors, children, family, nurses, cleaning workers... We carry out a pleasant and enjoyable activity with storytelling, reading promotion and reading fostering. We do not deal with trauma or with poor health conditions. We do not heal through words but through words we bring fantasy, creativity, play, and human exploring actions back. For these reasons, we think of reading promotion within the framework of primary health promotion.