Please welcome my guest blogger today, Gabriela Simmons, with her post on using books to teach kids another language.
Even though I grew up speaking various languages at home, it has not been an easy ride trying to pass these languages to the kids. I have gained the utmost respect for parents making the effort to help their kids become bilingual, trilingual, etc. It is simply hard work. I have felt like giving up many times, taking the easier route of speaking to the kids in the language that is easiest for them. However, no matter what try to keep it up as long as you can, you will not regret it in the long term.
The one thing that has helped us more than anything has been books and I truly believe that reading in two languages is twice the fun. Hence, here some ideas of how you can enjoy it more.
Smaller Kids – Reading Aloud
With multilingual kids, the age bracket in which reading aloud is wanted can be quite a bit longer than for monolingual kids. The reason, they are not equally strong in each language. Hence they will need some help with the not so strong language. No matter how many languages are spoken at home, one or many, reading aloud can be relished for a long time (the kids might even start reading to you)…and the cuddling up part is the best benefit!!
- Don’t simply read the book, talk to them about what they think the book will be about before you start reading it. Talk to them about what they think will happen after the book has finished.
- Use the illustrations to describe colors, shapes, patterns, feelings.
- If they answer in the “wrong” language just repeat the sentence in the “other” language.
- Find bilingual books, so you can easily jump from one language to the other. Maybe dad reads the book in one language and mom in the other. It is just much easier for the reader than having to translate in parallel.
- For lack of bilingual books, many popular books have been published in a diversity of languages (hint: many libraries in the US will have the English and the Spanish edition)
- One that will have them cracking away, invent a crazy story around each of the pages, no need for it have anything to do with the real story. They will become very creative themselves in no time and often in more than one language.
Bilingual Books make it easier to expand the vocabulary in the target languages.
Bigger Kids – Reading by themselves
- Have them try a book they loved in the not so strong language and ask them what and why they preferred one or the other.
- Visit libraries or bookstores whenever you are traveling to a country that uses your target language. Make it an event for the whole family.
- Online Bookshops have loads of books in various languages. So if your child likes a series, maybe buy the next book in your target language and have them try it. It will be more work for them, so they might need your help.
- As kids grow up and have more influence in one language, most probably through school, the larger the gap in proficiency levels between one language and the other will become. The longer you can help them keep it up, the better.
Some bilingual book resources:
Tim Tim Tom: Bilingual Personalized Books, available 10 languages
Language Lizard: bilingual children’s products in over 50 languages
Bilinguis: Free bilingual books
Delia Berlin: Spanish/English books
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.