There are a few things to keep in mind when you are presenting a bilingual storytime. The first thing you need to do is figure out if you will be presenting a bilingual storytime by yourself or with a partner. If you are not fluent, then getting another bilingual presenter is important. You can not present a bilingual storytime unless someone is there that is fluent because a major part of storytime is being able to support parents as they learn new early literacy practices. If you can not communicate with them, then you are creating a false door by advertising a bilingual storytime.
What qualifies as a bilingual storytime?
One presenter: Spanish and English presented equally
Two presenters: English presented by one and Spanish by the other
What does NOT qualify as a bilingual storytime?
English speaking presenter presenting books with latinx characters, themes and culture. Books may have sprinkling of Spanish words and storytime may include spanish music.
While you may be tempted to include some Spanish music and latinx themes in your storytime, that does not make it bilingual. If you can not communicate with your audience at all times, then you can not call it a bilingual storytime. That does not mean that you can’t add some of these elements into your current storytime, just make sure that you don’t advertise it as bilingual.
There are a couple different formats that you can present your bilingual storytime in. Here are the ones that are recommended by a presentation at the Second REFORMA National Conference:
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.
- 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.
You can pick any of these formats, but I normally recommend format 1 because it is the easiest to do and it can easily be done with two presenters.
Want to see what it looks like when two presenters read?
Here is a video sample of me and another presenter reading Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. Notice that I read both pages of text and then my partner does the same.