Allen Public Library brings culture to story time as the Dallas/Fort Worth Chinese American Storytelling eGarden comes to tell stories in Mandarin this Saturday, Aug. 3. Story times will be at 10:30 and 11:05 a.m. in the Children's Program Room of the Allen library, 300 N. Allen Drive.
The Dallas/Fort Worth Chinese American Storytelling eGarden (DFW CASE) is a local group of parent volunteers who want to teach their kids about Chinese culture and help them learn Mandarin while giving others an opportunity to experience a culture different from their own.
DFW CASE started three years ago when parents in Allen requested that the library have stories told in Mandarin, so their kids hear the language outside of their home. Since the librarians did not speak Mandarin, the parents formed the organization with support from the International Chinese Reading Association. The eGarden is made up entirely of volunteers.
“I believe the parents want to keep their kids engaged in their culture and understand their heritage, because sometimes they can feel pretty isolated,” Youth Services Manager Claudia Wayland said. “Some parents who come into the story time don’t speak a lot of English, or they might not read a lot of English, so this is a way for them to connect more to the library. We’ve seen a large increase in the number of families visiting the library that I know I’ve seen at the story times, so I feel like that’s helped them feel more welcome at the library."
In the beginning, the library held the Chinese story times for one session, but as the audience grew, the library allowed for two sessions, so everyone who wanted to attend can listen to the stories.
“It actually won an award with the Texas Library Association last year – a TLA Branding Iron award – for engagement in their community,” Wayland said.
Each story time has a theme, and for the summer the volunteers chose a story having to do with exercise and getting outside.
“It’s summertime, and we want to promote healthy lifestyle to our children,” DFW CASE leader Chelsea PierreLouis said. “Most of us are parents, so we really want to model a healthy and socially responsible lifestyle, so we raise children who love their community and want to give back and get involved. We want to raise future leaders, so we will always make the story time something fun and positive.”
Some story times are spent teaching the children simplified Chinese, so they can read and write as well as speak. The volunteers look for stories with simple characters for the younger kids to learn.
“I want them to be proud that they learned this language,” PierreLouis said. “When I was in high school, my friends could speak different languages, but they were embarrassed to speak them. I hope that’s changed now. I want the children to be proud that they have the skill to speak and understand a different language.”
To further children’s engagement in the Chinese language, DFW CASE is putting together a magazine scheduled to be released in October. Stories written by kids in the Dallas-Fort Worth area will be published for other kids to read.
“The story time is suitable for young kids, but as the kids grow we want to grow with them,” PierreLouis said.
Since its start, DFW CASE has branched into helping involve families in helping charitable organizations like Harvest Oaks Church and their initiative to clean up Celebration Park and raising funds to give to the Children’s Medical Center Dallas.
“I want to see my children and other children become future leaders,” PierreLouis said. “I want them to see Mommy and Daddy spending time and effort to do good and give back to the community. Hopefully when they grow up, they will be socially responsible and want to give back to their community.”
More information about the Dallas/Fort Worth Chinese American Storytelling eGarden can be found on their Facebook page.