Multilingual children’s section opens in Sheffield Central Library

Lord Blunkett is read some Japanese by Umi Sarkar at the launch of the new multilingual children's library in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees
Lord Blunkett is read some Japanese by Umi Sarkar at the launch of the new multilingual children's library in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

A multilingual section which will allow children to access books in various different languages has been officially opened at a library in Sheffield. 

The section, which was unveiled at Sheffield Central Library on Saturday, has been stocked with around 500 books, donated by authors, publishers and members of the public – each written in one of the many 150 languages spoke in the city. 

The formal launch was supported by performances from some of Sheffield’s multilingual heritage language schools and included multilingual storytelling for youngsters.

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It has been the brainchild of Dr Sabine Little, Lecturer at the University of Sheffield’s School of Education, whose research focuses on the important links between language and identity in multilingual families. 

Dr Little, who was born in Germany, has previously worked with the library to organise multilingual storytelling events, such as Sheffield’s inaugural Multilingual Book Day last march, in which hundreds of people attended storytelling sessions in 11 languages.

She was joined on the day by Sheffield’s Lord Mayor Magid Magid and Lord David Blunkett, who both to offered their support for the library. 

The Lord Mayor said: “Sheffield is home to over 150 spoken languages, and the diversity represented in Sheffield’s multilingual children lends strength to the city’s standing in today’s global climate.

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“Helping children to grow up multilingual is not just important in terms of identity and heritage, but also has real economic benefits. Many families struggle to maintain their home language, and access to resources is often a issue.

“It is great to see the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Libraries working together to support and nurture Sheffield’s multilingual families.”

A reward scheme is also available to children, who can register for a Reading Passport and gain a certificate for their multilingual reading efforts.

The project has received research funding as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s ‘Other Worlds Research Initiative’.

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This will enable both qualitative and quantitative data collection on how families engage with the available resources, and what impact the library has on language development and identity development

For more information visit Sheffield Central Library, which is located on Surrey Street, S1 1XZ.