Sheffield’s new multilingual children’s library encourages children to engage with their heritage

A multilingual book section has been unveiled at Sheffield’s Central Children’s Library, attracting widespread interest in the new collection.

The fact that the books are housed at the Central Library as opposed to a different branch has already made foreign-speaking members of the community feel more included.

Sabine Little, Lecturer of Education at The University Sheffield, and the brain behind the initiative, said: “Parents have shared with me that it lent the language status. If their children discover that they can go to the public library and there’s something in their language and they don’t have to go to a specific community group, it is integrated into their daily lives.”

Although the collection was only launched a week ago, multilingual families are already making use of the resources.

Alexis Filby, Library and Information Assistant at Sheffield’s Central Children’s Library, said: “I know a lot got borrowed on the launch. The actual collection has depleted quite a lot since we first put it out on the shelves, so that’s a positive sign, it’s definitely getting used.”

At the moment, the library relies on donations by the community and authors and publishers who were reached through Social Media.

A new edition of Peter Pan by Caryl Hart, a local author, has attracted particular attention. Ms Hart contacted her publishers and asked them to send versions of her book in different languages.

Ms Filby said: “It’s a really beautiful version of Peter Pan, so that’s been really popular.”

The initiative will benefit the heritage language community but also possibly the wider community.

Dr Little said: “In the multilingual reading sessions that we’ve done, I’ve had a monolingual English speaking dad come up to me and say ‘Oh I’ve never heard Bengali before, it’s a really good language, it’s really interesting.’ So it is about Sheffield’s community as a whole.”

The library is one way for non-English speaking parents to bond with their children and share their heritage.

Dr Little says: “We’re hoping to have more multilingual story telling events to keep that as a public space and ensure that the library is opened to all of Sheffield’s language communities.”

The library is looking for book donations.

They can be in any language other than English as long as they’re in good condition.

If you’d like to contribute, you can drop off your donations at Sheffield’s Central Children’s Library.