The Burnaby Public Library was recently awarded the 2012 Representative Award of Excellence in the category of cultural heritage and diversity by B.C.'s representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
Sharon Freeman, chair of the library board, spoke to Burnaby council about the award at a recent council meeting and asked that the city display it at city hall.
The library won the award for its Embracing Diversity: Sharing Our Songs and Rhymes project.
"It's a web-based public education project," Freeman explained, adding the project uses rhymes and songs in more than a dozen languages to "encourage acceptance of diversity."
The project is run through the Burnaby and New Westminster libraries, and the 15 languages used in the videos range from Arabic to Dari to Vietnamese.
The videos of performers singing or speaking in their native language include translations of the lyrics or words.
Viewers can learn to use four or five phrases in that language through the videos, according to Freeman.
"What makes the project unique is that you can learn about the person performing the song or rhyme," she said.
The project not only teaches children new languages, it helps children and families maintain their first languages, she added.
"Families are saying, 'this is the right thing to do,'" she told council.
Coun. Anne Kang, who is a member of the library board, said the project "really reflects what Burnaby is."
"We are a city of more than 100 languages and dialects," she added.
Coun. Nick Volkow, who was born in
France and grew up speaking Russian and French in his home, said he didn't speak any English when he arrived in Canada as a child.
He went to the library to learn more about the language, he added, but there weren't projects like this at the time.
"I can understand the value of this program," Volkow said.
Mayor Derek Corrigan said the children of Burnaby come from very diverse backgrounds and thanked the library staff for their work.
The award winners were announced last month, and Freeman and library staff travelled to Victoria to accept the award last week.
"It continually amazes me what these extraordinary people and organizations do in their communities," Turpel-Lafond said in a news release. "They are constantly pushing boundaries with innovative and exciting ideas and programs, and giving all they have to provide children and youth with the opportunities to find their place in the world and move forward with encouragement and support."
Embracing Diversity project resources and videos are available at www.embracing diversity/bpl.bc.ca.