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Home language reading morning at the Harbour International School of Rotterdam

During term 1, and after a break of nearly 3 years, we saw the return of one of our most favoured school traditions: Home Language Reading Morning. Our school values all languages and such events are a great opportunity to celebrate our diversity.  

By Veronique Z-Yasaka, Admissions/PD Officer at Harbour International School Rotterdam

Home Language Reading and why it is important

Reading is one of the most important activities children can engage in. Through reading, children develop new vocabulary, learn language structures, learn new things and discover new places and ideas and much more. Reading can be done silently but children also benefit from being read aloud to. The benefits of reading aloud are even greater when the child actively participates in the conversation or discussion about the text being read. With this in mind, our English as an Additional Language (EAL) department regularly organises special mornings when the children are given the opportunity to listen to stories in their home language, as competency in the home language supports learning English and other languages.

How does it work?

This is a whole school event and our school staff, children and their parents participate. We ask parents to volunteer and come into school to read books in their home language for 30 minutes. Since we rely on our parents, the choice of languages offered is dependent on our community, but generally we have a lot of languages represented.

This year, we even had multiple languages from India on offer.  The children are informed of the language choices in advance and are placed in their home language group if available. If this is not possible, they can join the class where English or Dutch are read. On the day, they go to the classroom where their home language will be read.

‘When is the next session?’

The children listen to a story but are also free to comment and ask questions. Once the story is finished, the children will comment on the story and often talk about other books they have read or about the book they are currently reading.

I volunteered this year and read two books in French to the children. Despite the age difference (my group had children from 5 to 9 years old) everybody in my group was fully engaged and thoroughly enjoying themselves (including me)! When I asked other children and parents who participated how it went, I got some enthusiastic comments such as: “when is the next session?”, “Can we please keep reading, the story is not finished and I want to know the end.” I also heard that there was a group whose story was told through the use of puppets, which was “brilliant” (the children’s words, not mine).

What’s next?

In addition to being a great opportunity for our parents to be involved in our community, we know that such sessions support our children’s learning, whilst celebrating our school’s diversity and rich language and culture background. Later in the school year, we will organise a similar event during which older students lead the groups. Also, we would love to expand the languages on offer for the next time.

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