Portuguese reading meeting in Frankfurt “Children overcome language barriers”

Daniela enthusiastically presents the colourful palette of Portuguese picture books
Daniela enthusiastically presents the colourful palette of Portuguese picture books | Photo (detail): © Jana Hermsen

Through friends, Daniela became aware of the Portuguese reading meeting in Frankfurt. Since then she has regularly participated in the project at the children’s library, listening or reading aloud to the children.

I first got to know the district library in Frankfurt-Bornheim through the reading meeting “Encontros de leitura”, and I think this project is something very special. It’s aimed at Portuguese-speaking children growing up in Germany. Some speak very well. Some know only a few words, but that makes no difference at all.

Daniela welcomes the children in the cozy, colourful reading area Daniela welcomes the children in the cozy, colourful reading area | Photo: © Paula Leveque The idea is to offer the children an alternative to the usual everyday program and to give them new input in their language through children’s books. We try to read only texts by Portuguese-speaking authors – for example, from Portugal, Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. For me, the project is particularly beautiful because the children come into contact with so many different forms of the language and hear the different variants. For instance, that Brazilian children can also listen to the other forms of Portuguese, and vice versa, is a very valuable experience, I think.

In my opinion, it’s important especially for children who don’t live in their parents’ country of origin to maintain contact with their language. The library is a wonderful place for this. Here the children see from the beginning that a library doesn’t have to be something dusty or complicated. On the contrary, they get in touch with other children, get to know the world of books in a playful way and simply enjoy themselves. And we understand each other! This aspect is particularly important to me: I come here not only to read to the children as a native Portuguese speaker, but also because it’s important to me to overcome the language barriers between the different variants of Portuguese and to promote inner-language and cultural exchange.

The book recommendations are well received The book recommendations are well received | Photo: © Fernanda Krüger When my daughter is old enough, I’ll definitely take her to Frankfurt so she can attend the reading meeting. Of course, I also want to read to her at home, but it’s something different being in a library surrounded by exciting stories from all over the world. Besides, it’s a very nice atmosphere.

At the end of the reading there’s always the opportunity for the children to become creative themselves, to tinker together something about the book and the story they heard and to play. The parents too are often enthusiastic participants. They get busy making things with the kids and there’s time for exchange. So the readings offer both children and parents the opportunity to maintain contact with the Portuguese language in a relaxed and creative way. Some of the children may attend the Portuguese school, but not all. Especially for these children, “Encontros de leitura” provides fresh access to the language and culture of their families.

After the reading, children and parents devote themselves whole-heartedly to a bit of tinkering After the reading, children and parents devote themselves whole-heartedly to a bit of tinkering | Photo (detail): © Paula Leveque

Daniela, 32, comes from Porto and is a publisher’s reader in Portuguese. She came to Germany for personal reasons, but keeps an eye out for small Portuguese specialties in her new home. The reading meeting is one of these and she is looking forward to visiting it with her daughter.

The idea for “Encontros de leitura” came from the desire to support children in their native language and to convey to them a special part of their culture and language through Portuguese literature. Through contacts to the public library in the Frankfurt district of Bornheim, the Portuguese reading event for children was born. The first meeting took place in January 2017. Since then Portuguese-speaking parents and children have been coming together once a month in the Children and Young People’s Library.