Resources to Support Including Dual Language Learners in Storytime by Karen Nemeth

Children who come from home languages other than English are the fastest growing portion of our population. These days, it seems that many librarians have questions about how to serve the diverse members of their community.  Here is my advice:  do NOT do these things if you want to offer successful library programs for children who speak languages other than English!

1. Do NOT feel intimidated. All young children love stories. The props, digital images and sounds you use to bring those stories to life will engage children even when they don’t yet understand all the words. Just make an extra effort to repeat, to speak slowly, and to clearly indicate the connections between visuals and the words used in the story.

2. Do NOT miss the chance to invite families who speak different languages to your storytime programs. Print, post and extend simple invitations in as many languages as possible. Welcoming new families may be as simple as making your advertisements easier to read.

3. Do NOT stick with monolingual story apps. Bilingual story apps not only give you stories in two languages, but they allow you and the children to hear how to pronounce the words. Try bilingual story apps by , the Sarah and Granny app from Sanoen, or the Pocoyo bilingual story apps. Many free literacy resources are available online in many languages at and

4. Do NOT be afraid of losing the interest of English speaking children when you are telling a story in another language. All your fancy storytime skills along with the help of your digital media will help you make any story interesting to all of the children. Reinforce the new words in the story by introducing songs with the same new words in English and the other language. Keep in mind that learning a second language actually helps build the first language while it also builds important learning skills as described in this article from the New York Times: Why Bilinguals are Smarter.

5. Do NOT accept low quality stories and apps for children who are dual language learners. This rubric will help you choose apps and stories that offer good quality literacy experiences in different languages.

6. Do NOT worry! Getting to know the diverse children in your community and helping them to get to know each other is a wonderful way to expand and enhance your storytime.

Karen Nemeth holds a BA in Psychology and an EdM in Learning, Cognition and Development (research on language acquisition). She is an author, consultant and presenter focusing on effective early education for dual language learners. She is a consulting editor and author for NAEYC, the co-chair of the early childhood SIG of NABE, and she is on the board of NJTESOL/NJBE. Karen wrote Many Languages, One Classroom, Many Languages, Building Connections, and Basics of Supporting Dual Language Learners. She co-authored Digital Decisions and Mi Habitación/My Room. She was an Education Program Development Specialist in the Office of Preschool Education at NJ Department of Education. Her prior experience includes work in public school, private school, child care resource and referral/professional development organizations, college teaching and grant writing. She offers a wealth of resources on her website at


Posted on November 26, 2013, in Literacy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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