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Bilingual Storytimes

Check out some of the titles available through interlibrary loan from the State Library’s Special Collections. Individuals should request these titles through their local libraries.

The following resources were from Bilingual Storytime for Gringos at the 2009 Utah Library Association Conference.

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The formats recommended here were first observed at the Second Reforma National Conference in 2000. These were then revised and presented at the Public Library Association Conference in 2004 by Adrian Barrientos, Diana Borrego, Lorena Mata, and Ana-Elba Pavon. Thank you to these Reformistas for sharing their expertise.

Format 1—Alternating Languages

  • The book is read one page at a time; first read the page in one language and then read the same page in the other language.
  • This format works best with two people—two voices.
  • Good books:  A bicycle for Rosaura / Rosaura en bicicleta by Daniel Barbot.

Format 2—One at a Time

  • The entire book is read in one language and then the same book is read in the other language.
  • This format works best with short stories and short songs.  It is preferably done with two people, but can be done by one person.
  • Good books:  I hear a noise by Diane Goode.  10 little rubber ducks / 10 patitos de goma by Eric Carle.
  • Good songs:  Good morning / Buenos días by José Luis Orozco
  • NOTE:  A variation of this format is to read one entire book in one language and then a different book in the other language.  This works well with older bilingual audiences; one person can read both languages.

Format 3—Dominant Language

  • The book is read predominantly in one language with key words or phrases repeated (emphasized) in the other language.
  • This format works very well when the reader is not fluent in the second language, but is willing to learn key words or phrases.
  • Good books:  Uno, dos, tres / One, two, three by Pat Mora.  Chato’s kitchen by Gary Soto.  Fiesta fiasco by Ann Whitford Paul.

Format 4—Code-Switching

  • The book is presented by switching from one language to the other while still maintaining the grammatical consistency of both languages.
  • This format works best with one bilingual reader comfortable switching languages back and forth.
  • Good books:  Borreguita and the coyote by Verna Aardema.

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Bilingual Storytime

  • Howrey, S. (2003, October). DE COLORES: THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF BILINGUAL STORYTIME. American Libraries, 34(9), 38-43. Retrieved May 12, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
    Access from the library


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Bilingual Books

Crafts Books

  • Downs, Cynthia. International Crafts and Games (Instructional Fair (Ts Denison)). Gloucester: Instructional Fair, 1999.
  • Merrill, Yvonne Y. Hands-On Celebrations Art Activities for All Ages (Hands-On). Grand Rapids: Kits, 1996.
  • Merrill, Yvonne Y. Hands-On Latin America Art Activities for All Ages (Hands-On). Grand Rapids: Kits, 1998.
  • Michaels, Alexandra. The Kids Multicultural Art Book Art & Craft Experiences from Around the World (Kids Can!). New York: Williamson Books, 2007.
  • Sadler, Judy. The Jumbo Book of Crafts (Jumbo Books). New York: Kids Can Press, Ltd., 1997.

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Storytime Scripts

The following scripts for bilingual storytimes in English and Spanish are posted here in the spirit of the long-held librarian tradition of sharing resources and ideas to enhance public services and programs. Thank you to the librarians who have generously contributed these scripts.

Note: All scripts are PDF files.

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Tips for Bilingual Storytime

The following tips were presented by Reforma de Utah during a program at the 2007 Utah Library Association Conference. Thank you to Reformistas Rosemary McAtee and Melanie Tucker for sharing their expertise.

  • Consider repeating the same simple opening and closing songs at each and every storytime and present them in both English and Spanish.  The repetition will aid in learning the lyrics.
  • As with English storytimes, select books that are not text heavy and that have clear, effective illustrations.
  • Bilingual storytimes will draw entire families, so include appropriate materials on a variety of levels – from toddlers through upper elementary school.
  • If using English and Spanish versions of a title, alternate voices and languages page by page or a 2-page spread, depending upon the flow of the story; you will be more likely to lose the attention of audience members if you read a book entirely in one language and then in the other language.
  • As people enter, hand out a sheet that lists the books to be presented, CDs being utilized, along with the text of fingerplays, riddles, and song lyrics.  People may wish to put items on hold after being introduced to them in this fashion.  Also, it aids in following the presentation, participating fully, and serves as a language aid for those wanting to enhance their vocabulary in either language.
  • Distribute an individualized sign-up sheet (see Sample Form in pdf ) to each family of attendees to obtain their contact information.  Call potential attendees a day or two in advance.  Many Latinos are not accustomed to free lending libraries nor to free programming in a library setting, so you’ll need to promote attendance through reminders until a regular pattern develops.
  • Cultivate a relationship with Spanish-speaking members of your community, such as parents, teachers, social service workers, or teens, who can co-present a storytime and provide translation of text if the complementary language version is not available in book format.  You will need to furnish the resources and work together on format.  This relationship will also enhance your turnout, since your partner will help to publicize the event and will likely invite friends and relatives to attend.  This partnering may lead to other events, such as cultural programming, art/crafts exhibits, or a poetry/short story contest.
  • If possible, when using a fully bilingual edition of a book, use two copies so that each voice is accompanied by illustrations while presenting.
  • Don’t allow the lack of a companion book in the other language to preclude you from using an item you strongly think the audience will enjoy.  You may decide to present a particular story or poem in only one language, and that is fine, or your community volunteer can provide a translation, but remember it is especially difficult to translate a poem or rhyme and maintain the original lyricism.
  • A distributor like Lectorum offers a large variety of translations of popular English-language picture books, but look for reviews to ascertain that the translation is well done.  Don’t neglect to buy books published originally in Spanish; these reflect Latino cultures more genuinely and more authentically capture the natural rhythms of the Spanish language.
  • Riddles (adivinanzas) are a traditional component of storytelling in Spanish, so incorporate these into your presentation.  Adults will enjoy them as much as the kids.
  • Use fingerplays in Spanish and English.  It’s not necessary to have an exact translation.  It’s often more important to maintain the rhyme or rhythm of the fingerplay, so look for effective fingerplays in each language that treat the same theme.
  • Flannelboard stories allow for an interactive component where kids can serve as volunteers in expressing the story.  In addition they neutralize the element of language, since there is no text.  The same applies to other props, such as musical instruments, masks, etc.
  • Incorporate music CDs in Spanish or bilingual versions, especially those that involve movement actions.  CDs can also be used to establish mood or atmosphere as attendees arrive and depart.  If your budget only allows for one or two CDs, consider José-Luis Orozco’s Diez Deditos or De Colores among your first purchases.
  • Remember that some parents may be taking this opportunity for family members to pick up Spanish vocabulary, while Spanish-speakers may be wishing to practice and improve their English skills.  Having a printed program they can take home will enhance this aspect.
  • Use the storytime as an opportunity to highlight other library programs and to encourage attendance.

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