Children’s Specialists at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) developed a pilot program of bilingual storytimes in a way that grows volunteer partnerships and serves speakers of world languages.
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.
When I began offering Chinese and English Storytime at CLP – Squirrel Hill, I would sit in the storage closet practicing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in Chinese, a new language for me. Even though I quietly, slowly tested out the sounds in a new language, I did and do fail regularly in my presentation. However, my role is not as a language expert, but as support to dedicated volunteers.
I asked my longtime bilingual storytime volunteer about her experiences. She reflected, “I am learning about how to read books to kids with vivid voice, slower speed and gestures to keep attention. I am impressed that the kids are patient, trying out Chinese words even if they don’t know them.” She shared, “I volunteer because I remember when I was young, I enjoyed singing with teachers and friends. I am happy I can help out with storytime – it brings everybody together.”
Angela is a Children’s & Teen Librarian at CLP – Squirrel Hill. She is an extremely slow reader and bicyclist, but really loves both.