The St. Paul Public Library has published two Karen language children’s books, and will introduce them during Karen Storytime on Saturday at the Arlington Hills Community Center, 1200 Payne Ave., St. Paul.
They are the first to be published by a public library in Minnesota. Mayor Chris Coleman will be on hand to hand out a limited number of the books, beginning at noon. The books also will be read aloud at the storytime, which is free and open to the public.
“This incredible project shows the library’s strong commitment to being 21st century centers of learning, as well as leaders in equity across the city,” Coleman said in a statement. “St. Paul has a long history of welcoming immigrants and promoting equity, and these storybooks are so much more than words on a page – they’re an opportunity for children in our community to learn and have bright, successful futures.”
The library commissioned original stories from St. Paul authors Win World and Saw Powder, as well as original illustrations from children’s book illustrators Betsy LePlatt and Jingo de la Rosa, to create Elephant Huggy and The Hen and the Badger. With the support of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library as well as Sandra Schloff, the authors and illustrators teamed up with librarians, educators and Karen community members to produce the two books in both Karen and English.
“St. Paul is home to the largest and fastest-growing Karen population in the U.S., and before this project, we greatly lacked early literacy resources in the Karen language,” said St. Paul Public Library Director Jane Eastwood. “We produced these books with the goal of creating an environment of learning and discovery for all residents that access our libraries.”
The Saint Paul Public Library will distribute the books to Karen organizations and school libraries, and will circulate them as print and e-books. In addition, the books will be available digitally through the Minnesota Reflections collection of the Minnesota Digital Library. In early 2016, they will be available for purchase on Amazon.com.
The Karen is an ethnic group from the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma, and Thailand. Long subject to government persecution, many lived in refugee camps before resettling in Minnesota. There are about 6,500 Karen living here.