Our Little Library:

Using Little Lending Libraries to Meet Multilingual Needs

Sarah Smith, Monett Elementary School, Monett, MO

Our Little Library:

Introduction

Many families of English Learners (ELs) are not able to read books from school with their child or help with homework because of the language barrier. Since some families believe they are unable to help their children with English and/or homework, they can become very disconnected from their child and their child’s learning. If parents are able to read to their child at home in their home language, versus the child just hearing and reading books in English at school, it can positively impact the child’s literacy development and promote multilingualism. 

The goal of my project was to provide access to books in the home languages of families in my district. To reach as many families as possible, I placed free little libraries on two of our school campuses. I stocked each of the little libraries with books in languages represented in my district including Spanish, Karen, and Burmese. During parent teacher conferences, I placed books in these languages out on tables for families to pick up while they were at school. Families chose a free book and supplemental information on the importance of reading to children in their home languages as well as a bookmark explaining how the little libraries worked. As families finished reading the books they received during conferences, they could exchange it for a different book at either location of the little libraries.

Step-by-Step Plan

  • Evaluate the home languages of families within my district
  • Create book lists in the languages represented 
  • Purchase popular texts, fiction, nonfiction, bilingual, monolingual, etc.
  • Coordinate with maintenance department on the construction of the free little libraries
  • Collaborate with school administration on locations of the free little libraries
  • Create parent information flyers and bookmarks
  • Translate parent information and bookmarks into Spanish, Burmese, and Karen
  • Distribute books with flyer/bookmark to families
  • Promote project with school social media
  • Keep extra books for newcomers, restock as needed 

Timeline

June: meet with maintenance department and administration about construction and location of libraries 

July: create booklists and order texts

August: inventory books

September: create parent information and translations 

October: implement project

Budget

• 50 K-2 Titles (Spanish/English Bilingual) $100
• Ready Set Go!: Sports of All Sorts (Burmese Karen/English) $5
• Bear’s Busy Family (Burmese/English) 2 @ $2.50
• Mindful Tots: Loving Kindness (Burmese Karen/English) 2 @ $2.50
• Mindful Tots: Loving Kindness (Burmese/English) 2 @ $2.50
• At the Doctor (Burmese Karen/English) 2 @ $2.50
• Head Shoulders Knees and Toes (Burmese Karen/English) 2 @ $2.50
Interstate Books: https://www.books4school.com/
• Keeping Up with Cheetah (Nepali) $15.50
• Yum! Let’s Eat! (Thai) $15.50
• Augustuc and His Smile (Panjabi) $15.50
• Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? (Panjabi) $15.50
• Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Vietnamese) $15.50
• Mei Ling’s Hiccups (Sgaw Karen) $15.50
• Walking Through the Jungle (Burmese) $15.50
• Fox Fables (Vietnamese) $15.50
• The Three Little Sun Bears (Hmong) $15.95
• Hansel and Gretel (Albanian) $15.50
• Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat (Tagalog) $15.50
• Errol’s Garden (Tagalog) $15.50
• The Giant Turnip (Sgaw Karen) $15.50
Language Lizard: https://www.languagelizard.com/
• Classroom Library Collections (10 Book Set-Spanish) $49.80
• Let’s Explore Life (10 Book Set-Spanish) $85.11
• Burmese Children’s Favorite Stories $12.29
• I See the Sun in Myanmar $8.54
• In Here, Out There (Burmese) $9.95
• Elephant Huggy (Burmese) $9.13
• Am I Small? (Burmese) $12.99
• When Someone is Afraid (Burmese) $6.99
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/

• Spanish Nonfiction Grades K-3- 2 @ $66.00
• David Shannon Spanish Grades K-2 $18.75
• Great Spanish Books Grades K-1 $68.00
• Best Bilingual Books Grades 2-4 $55.00
• Friends at School Spanish Grades Prek-1 $31.00
• Best of Scholastic Spanish Grades K-3 $72.00
• National Geographic Readers: National Geographic Readers Spanish Collections $18.75
• Elephant & Piggie Spanish Grades PreK-K $16.75
• 20 Best Bilingual Books Grades PreK-1 $84.00
• STEAM Spanish Grades K-2 $60.00
• Let’s Be Friends Bilingual Grades K-2 $36.00
• Cuddle Time Nursery Rhymes Bilingual Grades PreK-K $19.50
• Family Fun Bilingual Grades K-2 $32.00
• Social Emotional en espanol Grades K-2 $46.00
Scholastic: https://www.scholastic.com/home

What did it look like?

Sustainability

Ideally, this is a self-sustaining project. As families use the little libraries, they should exchange books each time. I have also added books in English from my classroom as well as the library so that every student can benefit from the little libraries. I plan on using future funds to purchase more books for the libraries, and the librarians have told me they plan on placing books in the little libraries when they are no longer needed for the school library. I stop by the libraries every so often to reorganize them as well. I may apply for additional grants in the future to rotate new books regularly. 

Reflections

I really enjoyed working on this project and I learned a lot about how beneficial it is for families to have books in their home languages. Our local library has some, but not many, children’s books in Spanish and none in other languages. My hope through this project was to positively impact the community by providing these books for free. I am very lucky that our district’s maintenance department was able to work with me to build the little libraries. They really enjoyed helping with the project and were able to use materials on hand, so there was no cost for their construction. 

Because of the construction of a new school building this summer, I had to implement my project during fall conferences rather than Open House. Even then, the little libraries were not placed in the ground, so families couldn’t see them that day. I knew there wouldn’t be another opportunity where so many families would be at the school to start the book exchange. The little libraries were placed in the ground the following week and the school librarians helped me promote the project by creating a video for Facebook. I plan on promoting the project again via social media when I am able to purchase more books. 

It was exciting to see families looking through books and choosing some to borrow. Our school regularly gives out free books, but now, our newcomer families were able to help their children pick out books in other languages. I’m optimistic that because of these little libraries, families in our district have access to at least one text in their home language.

If I could do this project again, my hope would be to be present while the books were being given away. I would enjoy talking with students and families about the books and the project and how to use the little libraries.           

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