New book helps families who speak Dutch as a second language


A new book introduces kids who speak Dutch as a second language to the joy of reading and helps their parents to read it aloud

Sparking enthusiasm for books

Theater van A tot Z has gone from the stage to the printed page for its new project Kiki en Olaf. The theatre group that specialises in productions for Dutch learners has published a book specifically for children – and their parents – who are learning the language.

Kiki en Olaf is based on two stage productions for kids. Both were written and performed by Sara Pieters in collaboration with Theater van A tot Z.

The productions introduced children who speak or are learning Dutch as a second language. One of them introduced kids to Kiki, a little girl who loves to read. Kiki en de verdwenen letters (Kiki and the Missing Letters) was a huge success, and Pieters performed it more than 300 times in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In the book Kiki en Olaf, also written by Pieters and illustrated by Jens Dawn, Kiki is learning to read, assisted by Olaf, a bookworm (literally). It uses simple words and phrases that young children might already know or that are easy to learn.

“The goal of the Kiki character is to spark enthusiasm in children for letters and for books,” explains Pieters (pictured). “I wrote the book, like the theatre pieces before it, to encourage kids to explore the language, even if they don’t speak it that well yet. The book stimulates their imaginations and makes them curious about the library.”

But the book isn’t just for kids, it’s for their parents, too. Parents who are learning Dutch or speak it as a second language are often hesitant to read books in Dutch to their children for fear they are pronouncing the words wrong.

Kiki en Olaf comes complete with an audio book so parents can hear how the words should be said before they read it aloud. TV journalist Thomas Vanderveken (Alleen Elvis blijft bestaan) provides the voice for the audio book. Kids can, of course, listen to the audio book, too. It even comes with songs, sung by Pieters.

Next to that, the book comes with helpful written instructions on how to pronounce the words and a few games. “I became a father recently myself, and I’m delighted to help with this audio book,” said Vanderveken. “Reading aloud is important, not only because it supports kids’ language development but also because it creates a bond between parent and child. I find helping families who speak Dutch as a second language an added value.”

The book can be ordered online or bought in bookshops across Flanders and Brussels. It was published with the support of the province of Flemish Brabant, non-profit organisation De Rand, the Taalunie, VRT and Fast Forward.

Photo: Sara Pieters performs one of her shows for kids who speak Dutch as a second language
©Courtesy Theater van A tot Z