Libraries Bring Families Together Through Bilingual Storytimes

Las bibliotecas unen a las familias a través de la hora del cuento bilingüe

Pregunte en su Biblioteca Sobre Actividades Multilingües para Familias

People from all over the world have settled in the United States and raised families. An increasingly common characteristic of American families is that many are bilingual. In many instances, grandparents and parents have strong language skills in their native language and young children have exposure to languages spoken at home in addition to English. With diverse populations in communities across the country and multilingual households on the rise, it only makes sense that libraries are creating multilingual offerings. For example, bilingual storytimes are a fun and interactive way for those who are wanting to connect with diverse languages and communities and develop skills in multiple languages.

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Bilingual Storytime Audiences

Bilingual storytimes attract a variety of audiences. When libraries offer storytimes in multiple languages it broadens the reach of their programs and invites those with different backgrounds to get involved. As Spanish is one of the most spoken languages in the United States, many bilingual storytimes are being hosted in it. However, some places will hold storytimes in French, Mandarin, and other languages that resonate with specific communities.

In bilingual storytimes, you can usually expect to find a diverse group of attendees. You may find native speakers who have young children. These families can give their kids a jump start on learning English while still practicing reading and speaking in additional languages that they might speak at home. You might also find families with older children who are going through primary school and have a firm mastery of both English and an additional language spoken at home. Bilingual storytimes reinforce the idea with these participants that their native language is valuable and cool. Likely you will also find families who have an interest in learning about new languages and cultures. This is great for children as well as adults because it introduces them to the basics of a new language and broadens their worldview.

Benefits of Bilingual Storytime

Storytime sessions in multiple languages are great learning and connecting opportunities for early childhood learners and adults. Research indicates that children are most receptive to learning new languages from the time they are babies to when they are starting elementary school. Exposing a child to languages early sets them up for more success with language learning overall. Librarians also find that parents and caregivers will follow along and pick up some new language skills while they are at storytime with their kids.

Bilingual storytimes are good for cognitive and social development. These activities take place in a group setting with lots of children and families participating. Learning together is a great way for children to interact with each other while exploring something different. Knowing multiple languages has been shown to strengthen cultural identities and community ties in addition to improving communication, memory, and focus.

Getting Started with Bilingual Storytimes in Your Community

Several types of storytimes may already exist in your community. Monolingual storytimes are when one non-majority language is the focus, and the program is conducted only in that language. Bilingual storytimes are usually conducted in English but focus on teaching and sharing the target language. Some libraries offer multilingual storytimes in which the reader alternates between languages throughout the program.

Ask your library about multilingual offerings and learn more about participating in bilingual activities in your community. If your library does not currently offer bilingual activities, suggest these events to the library staff or reserve space in the library to invite your guests and friends to come together and share in language learning. Many libraries are finding solutions to offering bilingual programs even if they do not have bilingual staff members. Starting a reading session may seem a bit intimidating, especially in a room full of people with different language experiences. Saying hello and kicking things off with an introduction in both languages is usually a good way to start. As multilingual picture books become increasingly available there are plenty of texts to choose from. People understand that learning new languages can be difficult and it’s the effort that touches the community.

There are so many cool and interesting events being held by the library. It is just the place to go if you’re trying to familiarize yourself with something new. Bilingual education and storytimes will only continue to grow and the library will always be ready with new strategies and resources to help. Las bibliotecas son para todos. The library is for everyone.