MultiLib – The Multilingual Library for Children in Europe

Today, an increasing number of children are entering school with a need to develop their potential and learn to find a place in a rapidly changing society where even parents are having trouble keeping up. Regardless of whether or not they are from an immigrant/migrant background, children will need to be prepared to face a multicultural world with multiple facets and values.

Destined to “educate and enrich both the soul and the life of this world,” tales are part of human cultural heritage. They were created in ancient times and have come down through the centuries thanks to their educational value. Tales nourish and develop the imagination.

They allow us to project ourselves into a universe where all options are possible, and may then be reintegrated into our ordinary lives. The use of tales and stories is the oldest strategy to extend our vision of the world and of ourselves to another level. Venerable sages and masters of wisdom such as Milton Erickson, Idries Shah and Clarissa Pinkola Estes have used them because of their power of healing and stimulation towards social cohesion.

With this in mind, the MultiLib European project has developed several beautifully illustrated children’s stories in the form of e-books into twelve languages, including into six languages of cultural minorities present in Europe. These stories, whose authors and illustrators come from selected cultural backgrounds, recount the traditions or peculiarities of each culture through a series of metaphors or symbolic narratives that encourage transformation. They are stories in which each child can recognise him-/herself and where the child can learn and develop his/her imagination.

MultiLib accordingly meets the needs of teachers who seek new, innovative strategies to enable them to manage multicultural classes. The project proposes educational concepts, methodologies and tools to facilitate social inclusion and mutual understanding. It also encourages language learning to be fun and enjoyable. Today’s teachers need to provide children of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn new skills. They must also create pleasant and reassuring contexts, where speaking another language or coming from another culture enriches rather than detracts from, and becomes an asset for the entire class.

In spite of the ubiquitous presence of instant communication technologies that characterises contemporary society, it is the stories that have been handed down over the centuries, often orally, that best convey the meaning of experience and knowledge. By virtue of the universality of the symbols they contain, stories address that part of humanity which is common to all humans. While stories feed on themselves and evolve via their own creative processes, they also awaken the imagination, the magic, a universe of possibilities and sense of pleasure in us.

The tools developed specifically by the MultiLib project consist of e-book toolkits. These are composed of various children’s stories transcribed digitally as texts together with pictures and animations, videos and voice recordings in all languages represented by the project, as well as descriptions of activities to be carried out with children and a teacher’s guide.

Children and teachers from the partner countries involved also have the opportunity to exchange their own videos featuring their artistic achievement and performances related to activities with the stories.

Hence, storytelling as an innovative educational methodology is valuable for both children and teachers, as they can share in an inspiring and creative adventure together, using modern digital communication means whilst discovering new cultures.

Author: Marianne Poncelet, IYMF Executive Vice President (based on the description of the MultiLib project and reflection by Gilda Grillo)