Friday, April 7, 2017

International Children's Books Readings

by Bryan Whitledge

On March 28, the Clarke was delighted to host our third annual day of international children’s literature. For the past two events, we have asked Central Michigan University students whose native language is something other than English to read a book from our collection in their native language – we have heard students read in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and much, much more.

This year, we expanded the event and invited students from CMU’s English Language Institute and CMU’s Dept. of World Languages and Cultures (formerly Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures). We also hosted a panel discussion made up of five CMU professors in the evening who discussed youth literature as a vehicle for communicating culture. To start the morning off, we welcomed students from the English Language Institute. Each student had the opportunity to read a book in their native language and a second book in English to practice their newly learned English skills.

To begin the afternoon, we invited CMU students from all corners of the globe to read a book in their native languages. This year, we had eight readers read us a story in seven different languages – Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Persian, Spanish, and Telugu (a language from India). During or after reading the story, each reader summarized the story in English for the audience. All of our readers read excellent stories that were not just simple “kiddie books.” These stories, when read and translated by our readers, shared a little bit about the cultures in which our students grew up.

Following the international student readers, we invited students who study languages as part of their coursework at CMU to read in their second, or in some cases, third, language. Eleven students and two professors from the Department of World Languages and Cultures read from the wide range of French, German, and Spanish books in the Clarke’s holdings. The levels of the students ranged from beginners to those with near-fluency and we were delighted to give these students a chance to showcase their skills.

With children’s books in over 40 languages from over 60 countries, the Clarke looks forward to the opportunity each year to hear these books read in the language in which they are written. We are lucky that Central Michigan University has such a rich diversity of students, giving us access to these outstanding cultural artifacts.