Retired teacher shares first language as Indian Prairie Library volunteer
Betty Uzarowicz is a bilingual, Polish-speaking children's storyteller at the Indian Prairie Public Library. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
A story worth telling
Name: Betty Uzarowicz
Hometown: Downers Grove
Known as: leader of Indian Prairie Public Library’s new Polish-English storytime
Updated: February 21, 2013 10:38AM
DARIEN — Five years into retirement, Betty Uzarowicz realized she wasn’t finished teaching. When a friend at church told Uzarowicz about the Indian Prairie Public Library’s need for a Polish-speaking storyteller, the retired teacher saw a chance to return to the career she loved. Uzarowicz will lead a bilingual storytime for children beginning at 6:45 p.m. on Feb. 20. The weekly sessions are for children who speak Polish and for those who are hearing it for the first time.
Q. What attracted you to this new role as storytime leader?
A. I missed school. I missed children. Once you are a teacher, you always love to teach.
Q. Where did you teach?
A. I taught Polish school in Chicago for 34 years.
Q. Did the children who attended your first story session in January speak Polish?
A. Yes. Most of them were from 100 percent Polish families. I know that Polish families are stressing Polish first. It’s better to start with your own language first, then English just comes naturally.
We now have 42 Polish schools in metropolitan Chicago, with 18,000 students.
Q. Were there non-Polish speaking children, too?
A. There were two girls from an English-speaking family who came. They came just to hear the language.
At the end I asked them if they would be back, and they said they would.
Q. Where did you learn English?
A. I immigrated from Austria to Canada in 1967. They put you through school for a year if you don’t speak English.
Q. Do you speak other languages, as well?
A. I did. I spoke German and Russian, but to converse now would be very difficult.
Q. Where do you get your books for storytime?
A. The library provides many of them. I have some books from when my son was little. I really didn’t know there were so many bilingual Polish-English books in existence.
Q. Do you read the books in both languages?
A. I talked to the parents and I asked if they wanted me to include the English translations. They said No.
Q. Is storytime what you expected?
A. It’s very challenging. It gives me great, great pleasure. You have to think of things to get the children involved. You have to think immediately what to do next.
Q. When you open a book for yourself, is it in Polish or English?
A. Lately, mainly English.
Q. What else are you doing with your retirement?
A. I’m in the Sweet Adelines chorus, the Choral-Aires. We’re going to Hawaii in November. It’s beautiful singing. I love it.
I deliver food from the food pantry at Our Lady of Peace to the homebound every other month.
Q. Do you visit Poland often?
A. Yes, I do. I have many cousins there. It’s always nice to go back and have a reunion.