Bilingual Storytimes Bring Communities Together

Children’s Specialists at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) developed a pilot program of bilingual storytimes in a way that grew volunteer partnerships and served speakers of world languages. In Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2016, the next round of bilingual storytimes will be offered across the city!

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Partnership with volunteer presenters has allowed for a true skill share – volunteers gain storytime presentation skills, and children’s specialists find ways to learn and incorporate two languages into programs. Everyone at a bilingual storytime is able to encourage early literacy skills while gaining or reinforcing vocabulary in multiple languages.

Here’s the breakdown of current offerings across the city:

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I conducted interviews with my colleagues at CLP – Squirrel Hill to learn more, while also getting the opportunity to observe Spanish & English bilingual storytimes. Megan Fogt, Library Services Manager for Children & Teen Services, and Rachel Nard, Children’s Librarian, were able to reflect on the prep and delivery at CLP – Squirrel Hill.

Nard reflected on the most recent Spanish/English storytime at CLP – Squirrel Hill. “…we had one family in particular whose first language is Spanish, and the other families in attendance spoke some Spanish or none at all. The little girl in attendance who spoke Spanish as her first language was delighted to help teach vocabulary words in Spanish and sing songs in a leadership/teaching role.  She was clearly involved in the storytime on a very personal, meaningful level.”

Some of the titles that families have connected with at bilingual storytimes include:

La Oruga Muy Hambrienta by Eric Carle, which offers the perfect opportunity to learn food vocabulary in Spanish. This is a story that many children and their families are familiar with, so there’s also a personal connection which makes listening to a story in a new language that much more meaningful for the storytime participant. We also often pair the Spanish and English texts with certain motions and expressions in an effort to draw parallels between the two languages and increase understanding of the text.

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Piggies/Cerditos by Audrey Wood, which is a wonderful book for a highly interactive reading experience.

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The Chinese language version of From Head to Toe by Eric Carle, which is especially useful when looking for an interactive story that involves lots of movement and positive repetition. Also a great story for learning basic vocabulary in a brand new language.

Fogt reflected on how these programs serve diverse populations, and also build community. “Pittsburgh is home to people from many different cultures and linguistic backgrounds. Bilingual storytimes provide an opportunity to build relationships with all members of our communities by functioning as an access point for other library resources and services. The programs also welcome native English-speaking families interested in expanding their exposure to world cultures and languages and will seek to build a greater sense of community by facilitating understanding and communication among neighbors.”

-by Angela, CLP – Squirrel Hill

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