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Masterful Mandarin Storytimes

screenshots of mandarin storytimes

A Fairfax County native and aspiring librarian creates enriching bilingual early literacy videos for FCPL.

By Erin Chernisky, Library Volunteer Manager

Community Inspiration

For the final capstone project in pursuit of her Master of Library and Information Science degree, University of Washington student Helen Li chose to go back to her roots — both her home in Fairfax County and her Mandarin heritage.

Over the course of five months, Helen developed and presented three virtual storytimes for Fairfax County Public Library that incorporate books, songs and rhymes in both Mandarin and English. The idea for her project emerged from a community engagement class she took as part of her coursework. 

Seeing many Mandarin storytimes offered in the Seattle area, Helen wanted to provide something similar for her community back home in Virginia. Although she initially hoped to plan in-person activities, the pandemic shifted her focus and format to online programming.

desktop computer screen with a screenshot of a mandarin storytimePlanning and Preparation

Growing up in Fairfax Helen spoke Mandarin at home with her family, but she still needed to brush up her skills for this project. “Speaking Mandarin is different from reading Mandarin,” Helen said, “And it is not phonetic like English is.” 

Helen spent a significant amount of time researching and selecting the best materials to use for her programs. “Even though a book may be great to read, it may not necessarily be great for a storytime,” she explained. “The amount of text and illustrations and the target audience are important elements to consider.”

A Welcome Addition

FCPL Early Literacy Services Coordinator Tina Mraz was very pleased with the final product. “Helen did an excellent job with these videos, and we are thankful for the time and effort she volunteered on the project,” Mraz said. “They have been a great addition to our bilingual storytime offerings.”

View Helen’s storytime playlist on the FCPL YouTube channel.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant