Mama's Tongue

Preschooler’s Books in the Original Language

Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, French, English, Romanian, Spanish

Disseminating words and stories in many languages in order to see a community growing with a greater sense of integration , is perhaps the most important ambition of the “Mamma Lingua” Project.

The project envisages an increase in the number of books available in the NPL premises and in the NPL reading areas and also in the books for children in other languages apart from Italian, books chosen with great care by a committee of experts, all organized together with IBBY Italia.

The languages chosen are: Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, French, English, Romanian and Spanish. The “Mamma Lingua” Project is an opportunity for Italian children to discover that there are languages different from their own, so that they feel citizens of the world, and at the same time it is an opportunity for children with foreign parents to appreciate their mother tongue, because at times they feel almost embarrassed to use it.

To share reading experiences with children from a very young age is a very engrossing activity which strengthens the relationship between adults and children. Paediatricians indicate that reading with children during their first 3 years is the most important thing that parents can do to prepare children for school. A child who is read to every day will have a richer vocabulary, will be more imaginative, will explain himself more clearly and will have a greater curiosity to read more. This will allow him to understand school texts with greater ease of comprehension, and to have less difficulty with doing school tasks and exercises, in all subjects.

Also, exposing children to several languages, both his mother tongue and that of the country in which he is living, strengthens his sense of identity and increases his self-esteem. The child who is bilingual is usually more gifted intellectually in comparison to the child who is not.

It is important that exposing a child to a certain language is done by someone who has a good mastery of the language. The language of the host country can be effectively learned through the school and the various reading activities offered by the NPL initiatives.

It is preferable for a foreign parent to begin the reading relationship with his own child in his own native language, which is the one in which he can best transmit the emotive and linguistic shades of meaning. The native language is essential in a person’s character formation, because it is the language of the emotions, of memories and stories.

Interactive Guide

The choice of books

The books have been chosen on the basis of information from the national sections of IBBY, from programmes similar to NPL, from book fairs, publishers and booksellers, and from bibliographies in the languages under consideration, by a working group composed of Federica Azzanutto and Liliana Macovetchi (IBBY Italia) and Giovanna Malgaroli (NPL Lombardy.)

We chose to include:

- Board books with a small format for their ease of handling, seeing and understanding for children aged between 6 and 36 months.

- Books of illustrations for children of between 3 and 5 years.

- Books by well-known authors or with characters which belong to the culture of the countries under consideration.

- Poems and nursery rhymes.

- First words (books to show and denominate things)

- Short stories which bring out the experiences already lived by the child.

- Stories in pictures with a greater narrative complexity.

- Books which introduce the first elements of knowledge.

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