No doubt books are essential in the transmission of our mother tongue to children when we live abroad, but having access to books suitable for each stage of a child’s development might be challenging, depending on the region in which we live. In cities with a dense concentration of foreign-born communities, bookstores dedicated to specific language do exist, like in New York where you find French Albertine, Hungarian The 10 Thousand Steps, Japanese Kinokuniya, and many more. Moreover, some countries, like France for example, support spreading their language abroad, by offering an economical rate for sending books, school manuals and magazines anywhere in the world.
Personally, I was glad to be able to bring many books and CDs for toddlers in the Slovak language to France, when my daughter was born. Once we moved to the US, I posted an ad in some FB groups and eventually found a mom with Slovak roots happy to get them all. But what if more people could benefit from them? This was also an idea that occurred to Ivana, living in Yonkers, New York State. When she moved with her two kids from Slovakia to the United States, she brought many books with her. Once her children got older, she decided to create an online Slovak children library, with the hope that her books would not just collect dust. Since then, with the support of donors and different organizations, the library has grown and has almost a thousand titles. The lending process is very easy and economical, as a reduced “Media rate” exists to send books within the USA.
Another challenge that some families face is the fact that their children are not fluent or just can’t read in the language of their parents, or grand-parents. In this case, bilingual books are a great support for introducing another culture and language to kids, while still offering them a “security base”. Lenka Singovska, a Slovak born author who used to live in the United Kingdom, has founded her publishing company back home, Class Slovakia, focusing on this issue. I have a lot of admiration for her work as she understands the needs of children growing far away from the native country of their parents. Her bilingual books are helping kids to not only learn the language but also learn about historical and geographical heritage of Slovakia. (These books are also available in the Kitndo store, shipped within the whole US). There are a few other Slovak-English books but these are mostly English written books translated in Slovak and therefore they aren’t inspired by specific Slovak culture, tales or folk stories.
To finish, I would like to stress the importance of being persistent in the mission of transmitting a language to our kids. As we originate from a country whose language is used by less people in the whole world than the population of New York City, it is truly challenging, and not everyone decides to take up this challenge. Not everyone can send their kids to a Slovak school at the weekend or in the evening either, and sometimes only one of two parents speaks the language at home. So, you should be proud of every effort you make for your children. If you would like to share some tips, or something from your experience that can motivate others, please do! Thank you.
By Martina Hornakova, Founder of KITnDO