On 17th November, Sheffield Children’s Library will see a significant expansion: a multilingual children’s section, stocked from book donations from authors, publishers, and the general public, to help the next generation of readers be able to access books in multiple languages.
The project is the brainchild of Dr Sabine Little, Lecturer at the University of Sheffield’s School of Education. Her research focuses on the important links between language and identity in multilingual families. She explains:
“Families in my research were telling me again and again how much it mattered to be able to share books. Reading together is a family practice, and being able to do so in the language you yourself grew up in can help to establish important links of belonging.”
Dr Little, who was born in Germany, has been working with the library to organise multilingual storytelling events, such as Sheffield’s inaugural Multilingual Book Day last March, where hundreds of people attended storytelling sessions in 11 languages.
The multilingual children’s library will be housed in the main Sheffield Children’s Library, who is providing invaluable support with staffing and cataloguing, with the multilingual section being fully integrated into all library processes. The project has received research funding as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s “Other Worlds Research Initiative” – the funding will enable both qualitative and quantitative data collection on how families engage with the available resources, and what impact the library has on language development and identity development. A reward scheme is available to children, who can register for a Reading Passport, and gain a certificate for their multilingual reading efforts.
“We are not arguing that reading in the home language should occur instead of reading in English”, explains Dr Little. “There are no clear policies in the UK education system which support multilingualism, so we are hoping to give parents and heritage language schools additional support in encouraging and maintaining their children’s multilingualism.”
The library launch, which begins at 12.30pm on Saturday 17th November, is receiving support from both Lord David Blunkett, and The Lord Mayor Magid Magid, who will be attending. The Lord Mayor states:
“Sheffield is home to over 150 spoken languages, and the diversity represented in Sheffield’s multilingual children lends strength to the city’s standing in today’s global climate. Helping children to grow up multilingual is not just important in terms of identity and heritage, but also has real economic benefits. Many families struggle to maintain their home language, and access to resources is often a issue. It is great to see the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Libraries working together to support and nurture Sheffield’s multilingual families.”
Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure said:
“The multilingual book day in March was very successful and it meant that we could then get involved in this exciting pilot project which will last for 12 months.
“We will see additional multi-lingual books in the Central Children’s Library; hundreds of books written in different languages have been donated by authors, publishers and individuals so it’s a brilliant time for children’s reading in the city. We hope that this pilot is a great success and that our young readers have lots of fun reading in different languages.”
Following the formal launch, which is supported by performances from some of Sheffield’s heritage language schools, multilingual storytelling will take place from 2pm.