No diversity in Lake Oswego? The library begs to differ
It's not every day you hear more than 10 different languages spoken at the Lake Oswego Public Library, but on Multicultural Children's Book Day, it's a given.
Every year the library hosts a reading event for Multicultural Children's Book Day to bring awareness to all the languages spoken in the community.
Andrea Milano, youth and technical services manager at the library, said they've done book reading events for Multicultural Children's Book Day in the past, but they'd only gone as far as reading books in English that had multicultural themes or storylines. She said having community members read in various languages is a much more authentic way to do it.
"It reflects a diversity in our community not everyone's aware of," Milano said.
She said the process of recruiting readers was organic. They approached patrons as they heard them speaking different languages to their children or each other. From there, a few readers recruited friends and before they knew it, 12 spots had filled. Once the library published the schedule and started promoting the event, additional readers came forward wanting to volunteer as well.
On Friday, Jan. 31, community members from a variety of cultural backgrounds read children's books in more than 10 world languages including Arabic, Bulgarian, Macedonian, French, Hindi, Telugu, American Sign Language (ASL) and more.
One reader, Isha Budhiraja, read a couple of books in Hindi — her first language. Before reading, she explained to the group — consisting mostly of parents, toddlers and other featured readers — that Hindi is spoken in a lot of states in the northern part of India but that each state in India has its own language. She read a version of "The Wheels on the Bus," which was interactive and received well by the squirmy toddlers. Budhiraja also read a book about peace and friendship.
She said that before her son was in school, she'd bring him to these events. Now, she takes the opportunity to give back to the library that she said has given her so much.
Michaela Weilert, who works as an ASL interpreter, demonstrated signs while reading a book about a cat named Pete and his shoes. Weilert has been teaching baby sign language for 17 years and in a group discussion after the reading she talked about how, for parents raising bilingual children, baby sign language and ASL can act as a bridge between the languages, making it easier for children to make linguistic connections.
Another reader, Thanuja Pappula, taught the group that Telugu is spoken throughout the southern parts of India. She brought a storybook in Telugu and demonstrated the Telugu alphabet in the beginning of the book. Pappula said her children are currently learning to read and write in Telugu. She decided to share her native language with the group because in her experience, "kids want to learn different languages," Pappula said.
The Children's Library has a world languages collection that is continuing to grow. They currently have books in Spanish, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Italian and Polish. Milano said the library hopes to eventually add more books in different languages.
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