SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – South Plainfield Elks #2298, in its continued mission to help individuals and organizations throughout the community, presented the library last week with a $1,000 donation. The funds, donated by the lodge’s Community Welfare Committee, will enable the South Plainfield Public Library to expand its bilingual program, including the addition of new books. 

Earlier this year, Peter Smith, a member of Elks #2298 and past New Jersey State Elks Association President, inquired about the bilingual programs he saw advertised and, after speaking with Director Linda Hansen, approached the organization’s members about a donation. 

“Providing members of the community with access to bilingual books, especially at a young age, is so important,” said Christine Sauer, Exalted Ruler of the South Plainfield Elks #2298.“When this was brought to our board we all felt it was a fantastic thing to support.”

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Although a small amount of the library’s annual budget goes to purchase bilingual materials, bilingual books, tend to be more expensive than average children's books with affordable Spanish/English materials much easier to come by than other languages. “Bilingual books are so expensive and it is almost unaffordable for libraries to purchase these items,” said Sauer. “This donation will be going directly to library for its bilingual services.”

According to Hansen, ‘bilingual storytime is one of the most valuable programs the library offers.’ “There are so many fantastic bilingual books published for toddlers, children, tweens and teens each year,” she said. “With this donation, we will be able to upgrade our collections and are very grateful to the Elks for supporting us.”

The South Plainfield Library currently offers Spanish/English, Italian/English, Chinese/English and Korean/English storytimes run by both volunteer and staff native speakers and presented bilingually with the ‘teacher’ reading in both English and the second language.

“Having someone who speaks the language fluently provides for proper pronunciation and having them read in both languages helps ensure that everyone who attends can enjoy and learn regardless of their language ability,” Hansen said. 

“It is so important to continue the language,” said Maria DiCarlo, who came to the United States from Italy over 30 years ago and runs the library’s Italian/English storytime session. “I am excited about getting more books here in the library that we can use to introduce people to the language.”
During the storytime programs, children also learn songs, rhymes and fingerplays in the target language, which are then translated into English and discussed. Additionally, each session usually includes a craft or activity related to the culture and/or language; for example, during a Chinese/English storytime, children might spend time making paper lanterns and learning a traditional lion dance to celebrate the New Year.

“The environment is limited to learn other languages and [bilingual storytime] provides a lot of parents the opportunity to learn to speak English and also teach their kids,” said Mikyoung Park, a volunteer who runs the Korean/English storytime session.

Kitty Wang, who runs the Chinese/English storytime, added, “It is so important for children to learn the language when they are young.” 

‘The bilingual storytime program is an important service to the community,” said Senior Library Assistant Mija Clemente. “Children who otherwise wouldn't be exposed to a second language have the opportunity to learn and it’s fun. It’s nice to be able to introduce a language and culture to younger generations.”

“Bilingual storytime is important because it’s not just about introducing or teaching another language to a child, it’s introducing them to new cultures,” said Library Assistant Jailene Betancourt who established the Spanish/English storytime in South Plainfield in 2017 and, most recently, began offering a children’s Spanish class at the library. “It’s good to expose them to other languages, since we are such a diverse town.”

Christopher DePaola, a 10-year-old from Grant who takes part in the Italian/English storytime program, agrees. “I feel it is important to know another language; when you are older knowing it can help you get a job,” he said, adding, “I like learning how to say the different colors in Italian. ‘Arancio’ - that’s orange.” 

The South Plainfield Elks #2298 – along with Elks throughout the country and the state – are dedicated to helping those in need. The 501(c)(8) not-for-profit fraternal organization is not dedicated to one specific cause or group; the Elks dedicate their services and financial resources to help a variety of organizations and individuals, including but not limited to, special needs children. For additional information, contact the lodge, which is located on New Market Avenue, at (908) 668-9750. 

Bilingual Storytimes at the South Plainfield Public Library are as follows: Spanish/English – Monday at 6:30 p.m.; Korean/English – Tuesday at 4 p.m.; Chinese/English – Saturday at 1:30 p.m.; and Italian/English – Thursday at 3:30 p.m. The children’s Spanish class is held on the first and third Thursday of the month at the library. For additional information or an up-to-date schedule, visit

© TAPinto South Plainfield, 2019. This article may be shared online, but may not be reproduced or altered in print or any other media without written permission of TAPinto South Plainfield.

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