Thursday 21st February is International Mother Language Day:
Linguistic and cultural diversity represent universal values that strengthen the unity and cohesion of societies. The recognition of the importance of linguistic diversity led to UNESCO ’s decision to celebrate International Mother Language Day.
The day has particular significance in Bangladesh, which is the setting for Mitali Perkins’ Rickshaw Girl. Naima, the book’s main character, has won International Mother Language Day competitions for her beautiful alpana patterns (you can see pictures here of young artists at work from February last year, when Mitali and her mother, herself an award-winning alpana painter, passed on their expertise as part of PT’s outreach programme). Rickshaw Girl is aimed at the 7-12 age-range and would make a great readaloud, especially for a mother and daughter to share. As well as overturning gender stereotyping through Naima, it highlights the positive results of microfinancing in Bangladesh, particularly for women.
And, since one of the anxieties of displacement is often the striving to balance acquiring a new language with not losing your own, this is a good time to point you in the direction of Mitali’s own favorite readaloud for 2007, Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate:
“a lyrical novel told in the voice of brave, honest Kek, a refugee from a country in Africa starting a new life without his mother, father, and brother in wintry Minnesota.”
I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my to-read list…
For reading to younger children, I recommend the bilingual I Am René, the Boy/ Soy René, el Niño by René Colato Laínez and illustrated by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez. In this delightful story, René researches his name and its cultural connotations in different languages – triggered by the arrival of a girl in his class called Renee: different spelling but horror of horrors, the same pronunciation!
If you are taking part in any activities for International Mother Language Day, do tell us about them – we’d love to hear from you.