February 4, 2023
"I am just very curious," explained a Romanian-speaking child on Saturday, January 28, at Eindhoven Library, after having listened to the book Maximiliaan Modderman geeft een feestje read aloud in six different languages. The Romanian reading was the last on the schedule, but he wanted to hear the book read in all of the other languages as well.
The joint reading was part of an event series organized by Eindhoven Library, HLE Network, and many active language groups, in honor of the annual National Reading Days campaign in the Netherlands. More details about the event series can be found here, including a list of the participating groups.
In total, fifteen languages -- including Dutch -- were showcased between January 25 and February 4. Most groups held individual readings, except for the six languages that held the joint event on the first Saturday.
The event series was organized to welcome multilingual families to the library. The organizers also wanted to celebrate the rich linguistic diversity of Eindhoven and acknowledge the important work of the city's many engaged language communities.
It was an inclusive event series. Anyone interested in listening to the stories was welcome -- even if they did not speak the language.
We spoke with one child, Zara, who attended eleven out of the fifteen readings of Maximiliaan Modderman geeft een feestje. We asked Zara what she thought about all of the readings. She told us, “I like to listen to different languages. Of course, I could not understand everything. I liked that the Korean group read the book in both Dutch and Korean.”
What tied the entire series together was that each language group read the same book by a Dutch author, which was selected because it was deemed the national “picture book of the year” for 2023. Zara pointed out, “It helped when I listened that I already knew the book.”
"I liked that the Korean group read the book in both Dutch and Korean.”
Shared moments in the home language
Eindhoven library recognizes that it is important for multilingual families to feel included at the library and that they should have access to books in their children's home languages. Access to books helps parents be able to enjoy moments reading together with the children in the language that the parent speaks best. Shared moments in the home language help children develop a love for books at an early age, which can in turn help them as they learn Dutch.
At the moment, Eindhoven Library boasts an International Children's Book Collection with more than ten languages, with many more on the way. The books in the collection are for children aged 0 to 12.
Shared moments in the home language help children develop a love for books at an early age, which can in turn help them as they learn Dutch.
At each reading in the event series, parents were informed that membership with the library –- even for those living outside of Eindhoven -– is free for children aged 0 to 18. As an added incentive, any child who became a member of the library during the National Reading Days would receive a free doll of Maxmiliaan.
One Italian mother said, "I joined the library today so we can start borrowing Dutch and Italian books." She added, "And who can pass up a free doll?"
Joint reading with six languages
On the day of the joint reading, Maximiliaan had an adventure through six different languages in two hours! Families could join for whichever readings they wished. Approximately sixty children attended.
Ukrainian children came dressed in traditional dresses, and chatty Persian-speaking children had the room roaring with laughter. The Spanish and Romanian groups stole the show with their impressive props, enactments, songs -- and chocolate cake. One of the volunteers from the Reading Pier, which is responsible for over 2500 English-language books in the international collection, read the book aloud in English. In addition to doing a reading, the Bulgarian group organized a book fair in the main hall for people of all ages.
What Zara had to say about the special event: “Both the big event and the separate events were nice. The Spanish reading event is the one that I liked the most!”
Events such as this can have widespread effects. For Zara, the experience of hearing readings in so many languages motivated her to explore words in some new languages. "I liked how the Italian language sounded, and after the readings on Sunday, I opened Squla and tried to learn some Italian and French words.”
People who passed the area where Polish was being read would stop and listen, to see what was going on. For some it was a new experience to hear another language being read aloud at the library. Events like this show that the library is a shared space, not only for Dutch, but for all of the cultures represented in Eindhoven.
When there is raised public awareness about other languages and cultures, it can boost the self-esteem of multilingual children.
For some children, this might have been the first time they heard a book read aloud in their language at the public library. When there is raised public awareness about other languages and cultures, it can boost the self-esteem of multilingual children, who see that they do not have to "hide" a part of themselves, the language they speak with their parents.
A big success
Using as a tool a simple Dutch picture book about a little boy making a mess, the many active language groups of Eindhoven showed us what a far-reaching and positive impact they can have when they collaborate. This success has paved the way for many more future events that embrace multilingualism and an inclusive Eindhoven.
We extend our thanks to the library staff, the language group leaders and volunteers, and the families who attended for helping make this a successful and enjoyable event series. Thank you also to Holland Expat Center South for their support in promoting the event.
Interested in knowing which other reading activities are planned? Search "voorlezen" in the library's agenda to find activities in different languages.
The Joy of Reading
Looking for information about the benefits of children reading for pleasure in their home language, including tips? Be sure to see our "Joy of Reading" project page (in Dutch and English).
Below, we share a gallery of pictures from the event series. See our related news post about the Japanese reading spotlighted by the local news outlet Studio040, including video footage.