Multilingualism, identity and belonging

This project focuses on establishing a pilot of a multilingual reading scheme for the city of Sheffield, critically researching its use and perceived impact in Sheffield’s language communities.

Photograph of young children on map of Sheffield

As well as academic outputs, the project will create resources and guidelines which can easily be adapted by other locations, to maximise impact. Following collaboration between Dr Sabine Little in the School of Education, and Sheffield Central Libraries, a multilingual children’s library will be introduced to Sheffield.

This research project pilots a reading scheme specifically aimed at multilingual children, rewarding children from heritage language backgrounds by making use of the library’s multilingual resources.

The project further provides a structured evaluation for the new integration of a multilingual children’s library in Sheffield.

A series of workshops for specifically under-resourced language communities will facilitate some community-created materials, which will enable these children to gain rewards for the scheme, whilst simultaneously serving as a pilot for future research bids.

Further details

The research project builds on previous work by Dr Sabine Little (see Rivers of Multilingual Reading), funded by the UK Literacy Association. This research, as well as previous research (Little, online first), highlighted the lack of access to resources among multilingual families, but also, the lack of ‘status’ afforded to family languages in public spaces.

This project presents a collaborative opportunity between the University of Sheffield, Sheffield’s heritage language schools, Sheffield Libraries, and the wider multilingual Sheffield community.

The project assess the use of and attitude towards Sheffield’s new multilingual children’s section, and, specifically, to what extent incentives (via a reading reward scheme and a series of workshops) can help families to increase family language use.

A number of workshops will target specific language communities to encourage engagement.

The reading scheme proposed here, and the accompanying research strand, will contribute to knowledge and understanding through:

  • Providing detailed insight into use of (and requests for) non-English language books within the Sheffield multilingual children’s library section;
  • Exploring families’ attitudes and perceptions of a reward scheme for multilingual reading through targeted focus groups;
  • Working at community level to explore opportunities for under-resourced language groups to receive targeted support around storytelling and creation of community-led resources

Related publications

  • Little, S. (2018, Online First) '"Is there an app for that?" Exploring games and apps among heritage language families'. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, DOI: 10.1080/01434632.2018.1502776 (Gold Open Access)

  • Little, S. (2017, Online First) 'Whose heritage? What inheritance?: Conceptualising Family Language Identities'. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2017.1348463 (Gold Open Access)


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