Hamish Chalmers is a regular contributor on the use of first languages in the classroom. In this piece, he introduces an account by Kay Robinson, EAL Specialist at East Oxford Primary School, describing her success in developing a bilingual library for use by all members of the school community .
In September 2016, on the first day of the new term, my head teacher Mr Kaye said we had been given a grant of £3,000 by Oxford-based St Michael’s and All Saints Charities. It was given to support a collection of children’s books in different languages that the parents could read to their children at home.
Over 30 languages are spoken by the pupils in our school, which is 80% EAL, and we wanted the children to have the opportunity to be able to read, or be read to, in their home language. We also have a lot of children here temporarily, for maybe one or two terms or years, whose parents have either come to work or study. When they return home these children have to pick up their studies, so it is important that they can keep up with learning to read their first languages.
Building a library
So that was the idea, now for the practical side of setting up the library! We knew that our parents rarely come into the school building itself, so we decided that we would use trollies that I could wheel out into the playground once a week, on a Thursday before and after school. This means that parents can see the library in person.
I looked at the different languages spoken in school and then set out to find suitable books for each age group. Our school already used Mantra Lingua’s ‘Pen Pals’ – pens that, after being loaded with certain stories, read them to you in that language. I emailed the company and they offered me a selection of books that were available. We have since placed four more orders! The books include some very traditional tales like Farmer Duck and The Little Red Hen. For the older children we have some Roald Dahl and Harry Potter books.
So, almost set. But Mr Kaye (our head) decided that the launch of such an important scheme should be a special celebration. He invited the Mayor of Oxford to attend a special opening of the library, and the event was attended by many parents and there was story telling in many different languages in some of the classrooms.
The library started on a Thursday, only then did I realize that actually there were other languages spoken than those recorded in the school register! Some parents had actually just put down English, although at home another language was spoken. So off l went again on a hunt for some different language books.
In total, we now have approximately 400 books in 32 different languages that can be borrowed to read. We have a core set of parents that come every week and change their books, and some that dip in and out on odd weeks, which is fine. The feedback from parents is that they love to be able to read to their children in their own languages and to be able to show the children how words are written. Two children, who were at the school for two terms, sent me some books in Dutch for the EAL library when they returned home. A parent from Sweden, with three children who have been in the school since September, has promised me books on their return in the summer.
The EAL library is a great success. However, we still need to keep replenishing the stock and l need to come up with some ways of raising funds. We want to keep growing and providing more books for our multilingual learners!
The EAL Journal is published termly by NALDIC, the subject association for EAL. Visit www.naldic.org.uk to become a member.
This is such a wonderful scheme. I’ve seen it inaction, with children and parents eagerly looking through and picking books and talking about their reading and their languages. The master stroke was taking the whole library out into the playground. Superb community engagement around languages and cultures.
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We were so excited to read the article. After so long, someone made a comment on dual language books! And how DL books brought parents into school. We would like to present East Oxford Primary three things:
1. A donation of 20 titles to the school to help further build the library 2. We also want to remind them of how you can add multi-languages on any book, with our free CreateLINK software. See picture below. If the title page has say 4 start arrows for 4 languages, then Tiger can be listened to in 4 languages. The inside pages still each just has one sticker, so you don’t litter the illustrations. (Of course, we put the start arrows on the inside front cover, anywhere really)
CreateLINK gets parents involved since they would record their narrations, using PENpal. If they are not confident with English, they could use our translations app, for sentences or words to be translated. Then the parents just need to narrate and take ownership of the language edition. Changes can easily be made; without text, there is no danger of spelling mistakes. So a free set of 32 ‘Start Arrows’ could be narrated in any number of language translations, upping the number of books in dual languages any number of times! 3. We would like to give them a year’s subscription to our Kitabu Dual Language ebooklub, 21 user licences for now over 520 titles, equivalent to 10,000 books in 37 languages! Kay said that parents came into school to read the books. With Kitabu, they could read and listen to the books in home languages and Engllish, any time. They could use Kitabu also with all children in the family and perhaps, improve their English through listening to stories.
Erica Field from Rochdale also kindly offered to give them the Attitude towards Reading questionnaire in 16 languages. It would be great if Kay could contact Erica for the methodology Erica used in collating and analysing responses.
I do not have Kay’s email or number. Please ask her to contact me.
Regards Robene PS. If any other school wishes to set up a DL Library, please contact me to see how this can happen. Brandon, pl send Kay a Kitabu full set licence.
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