Hooray for Dia! Hooray for Diversity in Action! Hooray for multilingual storytime!
My library never celebrated El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) until this year. I can kind of understand why. Dia is supposed to be about all languages and cultures, but most of the emphasis is placed on services to Latino populations, and our area barely has a Latino population. However, ALL languages and cultures! We have people from all over the world in our community, not to mention different areas of the USA. You can celebrate Dia in any town. Heck, even if your town is homogenous, it’s still good to find ways to expose kids to the diverse world lurking outside so they’re not surprised if they go away to college.
Our Dia went like this:
I talked about Dia on the radio and sent a press release to the paper and put up flyers and all that usual stuff. I also made a Dia display of picture books featuring foreign languages, foreign countries, people of color in America, and, wherever I could find it, diversity. Books that star non-white characters do not check out well at my library, or at least not in the youth area. I’m always bummed when I see that, because there are some fabulous books with non-white leads. I don’t think it’s that our patrons are racist. I think it might be that they don’t know if they can relate to books about other cultures, or that they don’t know if their children will be able to assimilate learning about other cultures, or they may even fear that the books themselves could turn out to be racist (Little Black Sambo, anybody?) and not want to expose their child to that rhetoric. (Side note: We don’t have any racist picture books that I’ve found so far. Which is good.) So, in summary, I didn’t think the books I put on display would get checked out. I thought it would be a static display. Hoo boy, no! I could not keep that display full! Books that had not checked out in years were gone in 15 minutes. I did a happy dance!
Since it was our first Dia, I didn’t want to go all out and stress everyone, so I decided to do an extra storytime. We have several families at our programs who speak non-English languages at home, like Polish, French, Mandarin, and more. Originally, I thought I could probably hornswaggle some moms into helping out with a multilingual storytime, but none of them turned out to be available for the actual storytime. However, they did help me out in a big way by helping me find and learn rhymes in other languages myself. Here’s what we did:
Everybody Bonjours! by Leslie Kimmelman
This book stressed me out. Although cute and a surefire way to learn that bonjour means hello, you can’t rhyme bonjour with both stores and tours. I took French class and I still wound up thinking, “Wait, am I saying it right?! Are both ways right?! I DON’T KNOW!”
After we read this, we sang Freres Jacques. The kids didn’t know the words, but that was okay because every line repeats, so I would sing a line and have them sing it back. Then I told them that many cultures will use the same music to a song but change the words to fit their culture. At this point, I got out the flannel board and sang them a song in Mandarin that one of my storytime moms helped me find and learn, Two Tigers.
You can watch this video if you’re curious to hear it. Instead of expecting the kids to learn it (since I’m sure my pronunciation was tremendously awful anyway), I used the flannel board and some improv to act out the song and see if they could guess at the lyrics. They did a great job! They weren’t disturbed when ears and tails started to fly, either. They thought it was HI-larious.
Then we sang the Japanese telephone song, which goes to the tune of “London Bridge” as a lead-in to…
Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon
In this story, a little boy goes to baseball games in both America and Japan because he has a grandpa in each country, and kids get to learn a few Japanese words and see how Japanese baseball customs are the same yet different (example: Both countries practice the snack-during-game custom, but in the US, it’s peanuts and hotdogs, while in Japan, it’s soba noodles and edamame.) Cute story! However, all the kids in my audience hated baseball, which made me laugh because my boyfriend keeps complaining about how much people in Idaho love baseball. It’s on the radio ALL THE TIME.
After that story and all the foreign language singing, I felt like we needed a good wiggle break, so we played freeze-when-the-music-stops to the upbeat strains of Putamayo Kids African Playground. I love Putamayo. Then we read…
Handa’s Hen by Eileen Browne
This story is without foreign language words, but I thought a cheery counting book featuring two African girls looking for a chicken still was a good bet. We live in a fairly agrarian area, so I thought that the setting might seem familiar to the kids and help them see that however far apart we are globally, our cultures still have things in common. Also, I love this book. It’s so freaking happy.
Then we learned the Spanish rhyme Rima de Chocolate, which I actually learned from my mother.
Uno, dos, tres, cho
Uno, dos, tres, co
Uno, dos, tres, la
Uno, dos, tres, te
Bate, bate, chocolate!
Finally, we read…
Round is a Tortilla by Roseanne Thong
Companion to the lovely Round is a Mooncake, this version is set in Mexico and includes many Spanish words with illustrations to help kids figure out the meaning. Plus, shape learning!
Due to a late snow, we had low attendance at the storytime, but the kids who came seemed to love it. I thought they would maybe get a little bored or antsy during the foreign language songs, but they actually stayed quite interested.
Come and Go Crafts
I went simple with the crafts as well. I set up two tables, one for littlies and one for early elementary. The littlies made Fon story pictures, which are made from felt in Africa but were made from construction paper and die-cut shapes in our library. Families were instructed to make up a story together before they started gluing down shapes, and I got to hear quite a few of the stories, which were all very simple but pretty cool. Go go early literacy! At the elementary table, I put out some origami paper and patterns. I had to lend a hand a couple of times, but it still was popular, and origami teaches spatial relations and geometry concepts, so I felt good about including it.
Even though it was a simple program, I felt good about our freebies. Between ALA and the Idaho Commission for Libraries, we had bookmarks, stickers, AND free bilingual picture books to give to participating families! The kids were all very happy with their loot.
All in all, our first Dia went swimmingly, and we even made the front page of the local paper. Maybe I’ll go bigger next year! Happy Dia, everybody.