Sunday, January 23, 2011

Library story time

About ten years ago, the Department of State started opening "American Corner" libraries around the world. They are intended to be a spot where locals can get reliable information about the US through books, magazines, DVDs, and programming. Here in Sarajevo, the facility has a small selection of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and a lovely and welcoming physical space. Patrons can use the library's computers to access the internet, and the library puts on programs about American culture.

The librarian invited me to do a weekly English language storytime for children. I've been doing it for about a month now. I love it but it does pose a couple of challenges.

First, I don't have that many picture books. And neither does American Corners (not surprising--their primary audience is adult readers). Luckily, the local international school lets me check out books. And I have discovered some great websites (and here) that have downloadable pictures that allow me to make some of my favorite picture books into flannelboard stories.

The second challenge is that my audience so far (except for my own children) has been non-English speaking Bosnian children. For an English language storytime. I'm finding it challenging to find books simple enough to be understandable to kids who don't speak English but not so babyish that they insult kids 4-6 years of age. Here my whiteboard is set up for quick retrieval of the flannelboard pieces to tell Audrey and Don Wood's The Napping House. Some other books that have worked really well are Jan Brett's The Mitten and Eileen Christelow's Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. I'd love suggestions of other books or stories that lend themselves to audiences with minimal English language skills.

Doing storytime has give me a good workout of my basic Bosnian introducing the stories and giving the kids basic instructions for fingerplays and games and songs. Mostly, I am amazed at how attentive the kids are to stories in another language! I keep wondering how my kids would have responded if I'd taken them to Jacksonville Library's French language storytime. I think I should have. I guess in any language, a story is a story is a story.


Clare said...

Hi. I'm an ex-pat Mum living in Sarajevo too - think we're relatively nearby judging by your cemetery pictures. Anyway, my daughter is four and you are welcome to borrow some of her pictures books for your library sessions if you'd like. My husband told me about the American corner just the other day and we plan to visit at some point soon.

You can contact me via if you'd like to borrow some books.

Best, Clare

Nathan said...

We'll look through our books and see if we can't find some that don't need lots of translation.