The public library where I am employed services a culturally diverse range of patrons. Backgrounds include speakers of Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Persian, Tamil, Turkish and Vietnamese. As a result, children who attend the library and the various programs come from a vast array of backgrounds, and often speak more than one language. Even so, Preschool Storytimes are only given in English, to accommodate the large number of backgrounds. I was fortunate enough to sit in on a Preschool Storytime and observe how it was conducted and what takes place.
Before the session began, I witnessed the interactions between parents and their children, parents and other parents, as well as interactions between children. When I considered this afterwards, I realised just how important this was – the important role of culture and being respectful of differences. I soon discovered that Preschool Storytime was not just an event for small children, but also for whole families. It was all about being included and about appreciating other people even though they are different. Storytime instilled tolerance and understanding not just in the children who will be the core of our society in the future but it is making an immediate and practical difference in the adults who make up our current society. I also felt a little warm and fuzzy too – here were about 20 small children, with backgrounds from all over the world enjoying the same thing! This was an important moment of realisation for me. It emphasied the commonality of human beings at this stage of development and opened up opportunities for building activities that centre on children’s enjoyment of the same things that we all grew up with.
After the session I spoke to the Children’s Services Librarian about the kinds of materials used in Preschool Storytime. I asked about the types of stories, activities and props that were used, and if any related to the area’s multicultural languages, beliefs or customs. She explained that this was unquestionably included into the Preschool Storytime’s program. She showed me books and other material which related to celebrations such as Chinese New Year, Eid, Diwali and so on. She also said that the associated craft at the conclusion of Preschool Storytime corresponded to the story.
The gap that existed in my learning was the close interactions with small children, whom I seldom deal with in the library. This was a bit of an eye-opener for me as I only really deal with elderly or housebound patrons. I learned some important things about the diverse range of patrons and how the use of a wide range of books, props and crafts in Storytimes teaches and promotes tolerance and pro-social development.
Because of its hands-on approach, Preschool Storytime encourages the Library to introduce children to a wide variety of cultures and experiences so that they become an everyday occurrence through ideas, activities, craft and songs. In a similar way to Bi-lingual Storytime at other locations, the library I work at allows children to learn about their culture, and those of others in a fun and friendly environment (Alakus, 2009).
Alakus, R. (2009). A fun way to connect with the community. Incite, 30(4), 27-28.
Eisenberg, J. (n.d.). 6 Myths about diversity in early childhood storytimes (and how we can read diverse books in our library’s storytime now). Retrieved from http://ideas.demco.com/blog/6-myths-diversity-early-childhood-storytimes/
Metusela, L. (2014). Ethnic diversity in picture books through the eyes of librarians and parents. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1101&context=thsci
Public Libraries Online. (2015). “We need diverse books”campaign gaining momentum. Retrieved from http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2015/06/we-need-diverse-books-campaign-gaining-momentum/