The newest generation of Indian Americans is often referred to as the lost generation. Despite the increase in opportunities for personal growth and success, children growing up in America often encounter a loss of heritage—acknowledging the tone of their skin as their culture, rather than the language, history, and lifestyle which adorns the true Indian lifestyle.
Local librarian at the Martin Luther King branch of the San Jose public library and chair of the event, Mrs.Gadee, offers a solution to this lost generation—creating bilingual story sessions featuring various Indian languages, hosted monthly. Free and open to the public, it is attended by children of all ethnicities—Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, Korean—and all unite under a story and the learning experience that comes with it. The stories are read out loud, with toys as ornaments, and handouts for guidance—once in English for comprehension, then again in the native language, to integrate the bilingual learning. Children answer questions actively, offering their input, and choosing their own ending— eliminating the classroom atmosphere and inviting informal growth. Gadee offers insight on her approach to the story time, saying “I see myself as a soft learning tool, where I can tell [them] not only how the language is spoken, but how stories are told in India, the cultural perspective.”
For half an hour, the children immerse themselves in the language. They utilize their latent learning skills, reflecting and creating connections to learn the language. One parent, June, remarks “It’s nothing like a classroom, but it’s a great experience. It’s nothing mandatory, but it’s good for [their] future. The more exposure they have, the better.” Another, Sunil, expresses that, “The children learn more than the story. The cultural experience is very beneficial as well”. As the chirping children laugh along with stories and pick the colors and numbers they’d like to learn— they certainly seem to agree.
Storytimes are held on the 2nd Saturday of each month, from 4:00 to 4:30 at the San Jose Public Library’s Martin Luther King Branch. Details are available on the library website, and volunteers looking to reproduce the program can contact the library (details at http://www.sjlibrary.org/about/events/index.htm). Says Gadee about expansion, “Other branches have shown interest. The cultural program has extended to a diwali, and garba event too— not just stories. The program allows children’s curiosities to be answered.”