Thanks to a terrific Internet contact in Tehran, Betty & Cat were “discovered” by nik-nak, a Belgian publisher specialising in Dutch/Flemish books + another language, often an immigrant or refugee language. Currently, the nik-nak range spans Albanian to Urdu and lots of languages in between! I’m happy to say that nik-nak now offers all nine versions of Betty & Cat in their collection.
Nik-nak was launched in Antwerp in 2010. According to publisher and founder Chris Sterkens, “Books make kids curious, they stimulate their imagination. And reading aloud to kids benefits both the reader and the listener. But lots of expat parents don’t feel confident about reading Dutch-language books aloud. When I launched nik-nak, there were no books to help expats over this hurdle. With nik-nak, we provide expat parents and their kids the chance to bridge the gap between their mother tongue and Dutch.”
Nik-nak books are inclusive, respectful of other cultures, and above all, fun.
Recent research on bilingualism has shown that expat kids benefit from cultivating their mother tongue, while learning the target language. To that end, nik-nak books are used in a number of classrooms in Belgium and The Netherlands. The books can also be found in libraries across both countries. Nik-nak books are inclusive, respectful of other cultures, and above all, fun.
From Betty & Cat readers, I know that not only the kids benefit from the dual-language concept: the reader, an adult with perhaps a very basic knowledge of the target language, is also helped. One English woman in Holland said to me that she was so excited to share Betty & Cat with her Dad in England: He loved reading to his grandkids but felt excluded because he didn’t know Dutch. Together, grandparent and grandchild helped each other through the language maze. I spoke to a class at the Universite de Montreal, and heard several of the students say they wished they’d had Betty & Cat-style books growing up: at the time, there was nothing to reflect the way their bilingual families were living, code-switching from one moment to another.
Chris has recently taken on a new book I’ve written called Superhelden (Superheroes). The book follows five kids living in Belgium who each come from another country. They hang out together, and discover that their mother tongue gives them a superpower. In three separate adventures, they help people solve a problem using their mother tongue. The book will be issued in Dutch, with English, French, Arabic and Turkish as the second language.
For more information about nik-nak, visit their website www.nik-nak.eu. Superhelden will launch in January 2023.