July 31, 2018

The San Bernardino Libraries have received a $10,000 grant for bilingual books


The Norman F. Feldheym Central Library in San Bernardino. Via WikiMedia Commons.

In California, a state where half of all children have at least one immigrant parent, libraries are working to accommodate the needs of their patrons. Thanks to a grant from the California Immigrant Alliance Project, the San Bernardino Public Library System now has $10,000 to use acquisitioning new Spanish-language children’s books, as Brian Whitehead writes for the San Bernardino Sun. The CIAP, now in its second year, has contributed more than $600,000 to eighty California libraries. The organization’s mission is to help public libraries better serve immigrant communities. The grant can be used to buy books written in (or bilingual in English and) any of ten languages: Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, Khmer, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Spanish.

In addition to helping immigrant children enhance their cognitive development, non-English books are vitally important because of the diverse characters they include. Several studies have shown that children benefit from reading books with characters they identify with. In the case of many young California readers, that means racially diverse characters from immigrant backgrounds.

Libraries today offer more than just books — classes, book clubs, computers, and accessible indoor space, despite restricted budgets. The CIAP grant offers the library an opportunity to acquire much-needed resources to serve communities that often aren’t prioritized.

In an era when immigrants face a myriad of daily struggles, the California library system’s strides toward greater inclusivity are commendable. As the great writer and Last Interview series participant Kurt Vonnegut wrote a few years before his death: “The America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”



Emily Hoffman is an intern at Melville House.