Readers for Life: Multilingual Reading

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Reading content from around the world in different languages gives an exposure to diverse cultures. I believe it may be a small step towards global understanding. While we have Spanish, English, Portuguese and French in that order as  the predominantly spoken languages in the Americas and the Caribbean, in Europe  with more than 50 countries having their own languages, the EU with 28 counties has 24 official languages and only two in practice viz. French and English. Australia and the Pacific have two major language groups- Papuan (750 languages) and Austronesian (1000 languages). The African region has an estimated 1500-2000 languages which are categorized under Afro-Asiatic (200 languages), Nilo-Saharian (140 languages), Niger-Saharian (1000 languages) and Khoisan (30 languages). In the densely populated regions of Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East we have many countries with multiple official languages (, 2016).


Multilingualism is a growing phenomenon in modern families. I grew up learning to speak in two official languages of India- my mother tongue Kutchi – a dialect of Gujarati; studied Hindi, English and Sanskrit in school, and learnt German as a foreign language for four years in the university.  I married a person who speaks an entirely different language from the southern part of India- Malayalam. Our child has been exposed to a variety of books written in these languages. Technology has made it possible to access and read translations of different works aided by the read aloud features of electronic devices and websites. Experts suggest that reading children’s books is the best approach to learning a different language.

Some interesting websites catering to children’s books in different languages from around the world are:

  • International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) – The ICDL collection has 4619 books in 59 languages with users from 228 countries. I was happy to find that there were books in two languages which I speak in the collection including many others from India. Free registrations allow you to save favorite books, set your preferred language, and also bookmark pages of books you plan to come back to.
  • Children’s Books Online by the Rosetta project–This site has a range of titles in various languages from around the world. There are free titles available as well as titles to be purchased.
  • Storycove– Story Cove brings you stories from around the world arranged under the names of the continents. Interestingly you can also see or play the animated version of the story. There are leveled picture books, read-along programs, audio downloads and live performances on offer.
  • Growing Up Around the World– This website targeted towards children from USA has bibliographies of ‘books written or illustrated by people who have lived for at least two years within those cultures’. It is hosted by Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) a division of American Library Association.

Do you know of any websites which offer multilingual books for children?

We would love to hear about them on our Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts.

Bhakti Gala, ILN Content Officer

Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2016A and tagged , , .

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