Sno-Isle Libraries is now offering online bilingual storytimes.
The children-focused events combine English with Spanish, English with Korean and English with Russian. Spanish/English storytimes debuted Aug. 20 on Sno-Isle Libraries Facebook page and YouTube channel. Three more are scheduled to run weekly through Sept. 10. Weekly Korean/English sessions are scheduled to start Sept. 16 on Zoom. Russian/English storytimes are being scheduled now.
“Storytimes incorporating Spanish, Korean and Russian are a wonderful way to connect with the diversity of families in our communities,” said Mountlake Terrace Library Manager Kristin Piepho.
Before the coronavirus pandemic forced Sno-Isle Libraries to close its buildings to the public, the Mountlake Terrace Library offered regular Russian storytimes for more than a decade.
“Participants have shared how important it has been for community building,” Piepho said. “Now, regardless of where in Snohomish or Island County a family is, they can join in the fun without a long drive. Bilingual storytimes will offer an opportunity for multilingual households a chance to connect as well – to stories, to the library and to each other.”
Storytimes are one of the most popular programs Sno-Isle Libraries offered in-person, so it made sense to move storytimes online quickly and to now add bilingual programs to the popular mix.
Piepho and librarians Kathy Smargiassi, Shannon Dye, Inseon Chung and Sasha Zykova got the bilingual storytimes program off the ground.
Smargiassi, from Snohomish Library, and Dye, from Monroe Library, are doing the Spanish/English storytimes. Chung, from Marysville, will do the Korean/English storytimes. Zykova, from Mountlake Terrace, will do the Russian/English storytimes.
“This whole project is the brainchild of Jude Anderson, library manager at Snohomish,” Smargiassi said. “He was the one who approached me about the idea, and I roped in Shannon (Dye) because I didn’t think I could do a weekly bilingual storytime by myself.”
Dye said she has done in-person bilingual storytimes in the past.
“One of the difficult parts of scheduling a storytime is knowing when it’s a good time for families to attend,” Dye said. “Now that we’re in a reality of programming online, it made sense to offer a bilingual storytime that families can watch anytime.”
When Chung worked as an English teacher in Korea, she used English picture books as an instructional tool for children’s English education and applied it to teaching English.
“As a Korean teacher in the U.S., I worked with students of different ages and ethnic backgrounds,” Chung said. “I understand challenges, including language barriers, and cultural issues immigrant populations experience. My past experiences of working as an English and a Korean teacher naturally drew me to this Korean/English bilingual storytime.”
Zykova has presented Russian storytimes for Sno-Isle Libraries since 2007 and it’s been popular with the Russian-speaking community.
“I think taking it online may change the way we do it and I am open to many new possibilities,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to teach diversity and help children discover the value and importance of other cultures.”
Zykova saw the payoff of bilingualism in her own children, now ages 18 and 24.
“They spoke only Russian before starting American public school,” she said. “Their scores in English on standardized tests in high school were much higher than an average student who speaks only English. I strongly believe that learning more than one language is very beneficial to all students. It opens their minds to other cultures and helps them learn their native language better too.”