Our countdown to Japan has begun! In, just shy of, two months we will be heading off to the land of the rising sun. Since this will be our very first trip ever to Asia, I wanted to familiarize our kids with the country, it’s language and some of it’s customs. The hope is that it will help them get more out of our time in Japan and to teach them a little more about Japanese culture. The first place I turned to was our local library or libraries.
I started off just by checking out an introductory language DVD that the kids could watch at home, or in the car during our unfortunately high number of hours we have to spend each week driving around between schools, the store and extracurricular activities. There was only one DVD at our local library, and it was the 2nd volume of a two disc collection. I wasn’t too concerned that we weren’t starting with volume 1 because the goal was just to expose them to the sounds of the language, to get them used to here something completely different from the English, German and Spanish they already had practice with. The result…wonderful!!! The very first time I put the disc in the car to drive down to my middle son’s pre-school, I was grinning ear to ear listening to my 5 year old and 2 year old actually repeating the words they heard on the DVD! A few minutes in and a cute song with a familiar melody broke out and my 5 year old was bebopping away to the tune. It was a hit. The DVD was called “Japanese for Kids: Learn Japanese, Beginner Level 1. Volume 2” Volume 1 wasn’t available at our branch so I had place it on hold to be sent over to ours from another branch.
About a week later was my eldest son’s school Spring Break. I had been looking around at story times at the different branches and found that the library in Kirkland, one town over from us, had a Japanese Story Time on Monday mornings at 10:00 a.m. Since we were actually going to be home for this Spring Break, all three of the kids would get a chance to participate. Story time was right when the library opened so we poured in with the rest of the patrons and followed a couple other Japanese moms with their toddlers into the story room. As more and more people arrived, we quickly noticed that everyone else there was Japanese, except my son’s friend who joined with her mom and brother and a Swedish grandmother with her 2 year old grandaughter. There was a big turn out! My first thought was “how can I get to know these ladies and would it be too weird to try to talk to them later about Japan?” I didn’t know who had been born in the U.S. and was just keeping their culture alive for their kids and who might have actually immigrated from Japan. The second thought I had was “Wow, we are now in a room full of people and kids and are clearly the minority. This is exactly how I have been told Japan is going to be for us. I was glad that my kids were getting to be the minority and still have so much fun doing the same activity.. I want them to grow up feeling comfortable in a variety of situations and to learn that being around people who look differently from you doesn’t have to be bad or scary and is actually just as fun as being with people who look just like you do.
The story teller was fantastic! She opened with a simple Japanese song that went around the room asking all the children their names and how old they were that was set to a clapping rhythm. It took my older ones a while to catch on but when it was their turn she did both English and Japanese and they said what they needed to say with confidence and even repeated the Japanese after the English once she told them what it was. A highlight was the first story, which was geared at the very young toddlers. A rather cute book all in Japanese with different fold outs. All of the different children went running up to get a closer look at to be able to touch the flaps that the storyteller brought to life. My daughter jumped up after a couple minutes to join in after she realized it was allowed. It was so cute to see her playing along to the story just like the other little Japanese toddlers. There were two more books read after that and then a few interactive partner songs. It was a great morning getting to share this experience with the kids and to see them so comfortable in such an unfamiliar setting!
To cap off the trip to the library, we looked through further options at that branch and we excited to have found a “Little Pim Fun With Languages: Japanese For Kids” DVD and checked that out. We also got 3 books: “My First Japanese Phrases” by Jill Kalz, “Japanese Nursery Rhymes, Carp Streamers, Falling Rain and other Traditional Favorites” by Danielle Wright that came with the music CD in Japanese and English, and finally “Teach Me More…Japanese: A Musical Journey Through the Year” by Judy Mahoney with accompanying CD, unfortunately it only had one of the 2 booklets (the 2nd one again but not the first!) and the layout was not as learning friendly as the other ones. The nursery rhymes book with a cd was awesome! And I really liked the “My First Japanese Phrases” book compared to other my first word type books.
The library proved to be a great way to get your kids interested in another culture and language in the familiarity of their own home and comfortable settings like the children’s section of the library. Plus it’s a great way to be able to try out different resources before you commit to buying some. I can’t wait to see how their activities at home will affect our trip in June!