Talking about picturebooks in libraries’ language cafes
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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How might picturebooks serve as reading and conversation materials in language cafes for international immigrants aiming to learn the local language? How might these books help foster meaningful exchanges between program volunteers and participants, and what might the broader significance of this be for immigrant inclusion and integration? To gain insight into these questions, this study investigates the experiences of volunteers and participants with using picturebooks as a basis for conversation at language cafes in Norwegian public libraries. The study is based on participant observation and qualitative interviews with language café volunteers and participants. Picturebook theory on representation of emotions serves as the theoretical lens for analyzing the selected texts used at the different language cafes. The findings reveal that a broad range of picturebooks are used for reading and conversation at language cafes and their use is generally experienced as fruitful by the participants, especially for learning new words and engaging in visual narratives. The experience of using picturebooks varies for volunteers, from pure joy to discontent, depending on whether they found the selected books interesting or useful for engaging with the participants. The study concludes that picturebooks can work well for facilitating dialog at language cafes, however the successful use of them depends on the competent selection of books.