While we love language learners in all shapes and sizes, there’s nothing quite like seeing a child switch effortlessly between multiple languages. Early language learning has become increasingly relevant in recent years, with more children becoming interested in other cultures at an early age (shout out to Dora the Explorer) and more parents committed to raising their children speaking multiple languages. Not only does this provide you plenty of opportunities to see children speaking multiple languages (always adorable) but it provides a great opportunity to get families involved at your library.
Promoting early language learning is a great way to expand your library’s resources, appeal to families and increase your patron base. Here are a few ways your library can help your youngest patrons get involved with learning a new language.
The resources, the resources, the resources are on fire.
There’s nothing (and we mean nothing) like a good resource. Whether that’s an informed librarian explaining the cognitive benefits of language learning or the Harry Potter en Español book club you have planned, content resources provide just the je ne sais quoi you need to get parents and children excited about language learning.
Think outside your collection of Muzzy videos when it comes to language-learning resources. While those are awesome, it’s important to offer a diverse set of language-learning options including events, online resources (hello Little Pim!) and statistics on the benefits children can receive from starting early in their language education. If your library is low on demand for language learning (and high on color ink cartridges), we’re here to save the day. The Mango Languages product catalog comes chock full of language goodies like flyers, shelf talkers, posters and more. If your library has 99 problems and a shortage on color ink is one of them, take a deep breath, relax and order them here. In just 3-5 business days, your patrons will have no excuse not to get involved with learning Dutch, Farsi, Gaelic or Pirate (or any other of our languages).
Focus on the parents.
Sometimes language learning requires parents to help themselves before assisting small children. It’s a lot easier for children to pick up a new skill when they have someone to show them the ropes, especially when learning a new language. But the best thing? When parents want to get their kids involved with learning a new culture, they often end up picking up a great deal of information as well.
Try promoting language learning to parents, so that they can learn in tandem with each other. If you see the young family who comes in every week picking up more and more kids’ language-learning books, point Mom and Dad to Mango Languages so that they can start learning as well. Go even further by investing in resources that everyone can enjoy together. Kids and parents alike will love the fun 1960s pop music of Jacques Dutronc, and the whole family will improve their French by listening to his songs.
Because we’re living in an international world...
...and we are international girls (and boys, and mangoes). Who decided that all books in the children's section should be in English? Instead of solely putting out the traditional If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and The Rainbow Fish, try throwing some international options into the mix. When you make translations of common English-language books available, you provide kids a way to learn a language on their own terms, using the English text as a reference point.
For children already learning a new language, it can be a fun surprise to see that their favorite book is also available in a foreign language. Do some research into what children’s and young adult books are most popular, cross-reference that with what foreign languages are most popular, and then pick up some copies of those books in that language. For a kid looking to improve their Spanish reading abilities, picking up the translation of a beloved English-language book can be a great way to build skills.
If you’re looking to garner more enthusiasm for foreign language learning, start small and place just a few foreign texts in the children’s section. See if you garner any feedback from parents: do they like having these resources available? Are their children loving having picture books available in other languages? If this strategy isn’t working to build interest in foreign language learning, try hosting reading events to help get the word out to parents. A storytime session of Le Petite Prince (or The Little Prince) can help children hone their French listening skills and allow parents a bit of alone time to check out your other resources.
While learning a new language at a young age can feel daunting for children, providing them with resources and a shoulder to lean on will help get them up and running with a new language in no time. For more information on language learning, take a look at our white paper: What a Modern Public Library Looks Like Today.