In the Finnish bilingual town of Jakobstad with a Swedish-speaking majority of 56 percent, working in and with two languages is the norm. It may come naturally but it doesn’t always come cheap. This is where the tradition of cooperation is a big help. Another plus is an enthusiastic and experienced professional, such as Monica Borg-Sunabacka, manager of the Children’s and Youth Service Department.
Once upon a time
Earlier this year Borg-Sunabacka met with representatives from the local museum, Aspegren Gardens, Arctic Museum Nanoq, municipal cultural department and regional children’s culture network BARK to plan a joint project with a historical perspective for school children which will take place in April 2012.
The project will take children in the 5th grade back to 1944 when their hometown was being bombed during World War II. Anita Andersson, a children’s novel by local author Wawa Stürmer will help the 11-year-olds get a glimpse of the life of their coevals at the home front in Jakobstad. The 14-15-year-olds will learn about the time of the civil war in 1918 through another local novel, Klyftan (The Gulf), by Anna Bondestam.
While the library will cooperate with the schools, provide the children with the books and translate Stürmer’s book into Finnish, The BARK network will offer clothing and accessories for the journeys through time to make it all the more real for the children. The two museums will help in realizing the outward circumstances and work with the background material. The Gardens will arrange the journeys in time for children in the 3rd year.
Garbage men, firefighters and ambulance drivers
Not every project or service is offered in both languages, though, and it doesn’t always have to do with resources. Sometimes there just isn’t enough interest in a service form in both languages. Another factor is the availability of partners in the respective languages, tells Monica Borg-Sunabacka.
A case in point are the story hours copied from Sweden based on a series of picture books for children. The books present professionals from different fields: the police, waste collection, fire service, ambulance service and bus transportation. The popular story hours have been held by real-life bus drivers, policemen and firemen who have read the books to groups of enthusiastic pre-school children at the library in Jakobstad.While five Swedish-speaking professionals have participated, only the fire engine book has been read for the Finnish-speaking children.
Popular science at Space Club
When the library arranged the Children’s University on astronomy with the well-known professor Esko Valtaoja, no grown-ups (apart from the library staff) were allowed. The Child- Uni is a collaboration between the library, the local newspaper Österbottens Tidning and the Department of Child Pedagogy at the Åbo Akademi University in Jakobstad. All the activities happen outside school hours.
According to Monica Borg-Sunabacka, there are plenty of experts out there but it is difficult to find specialists who know how to communicate with children. Also, marketing for a child audience is not an easy task. Professor Valtaoja, however, proved to be an excellent choice. At the end of his lecture, the professor scratched his head in amazement at the children’s questions such as “Do potatoes grow in space?” Afterwards, the children could sign in for a space club with six meetings. Ten children met with university lecturers, librarians and journalists to study further their own questions, to find information and to put the results into writing – to be published in Österbottens Tidning.
Interesting news from the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s undertakings are expected when the university continues its classes in late 2011.
Freelance Library Specialist
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