Bilingualism: Reading With Your Child

bilingual-reading-kids

reading-with-kidsExtracurricular reading, throughout the year, is one of the best ways to assure children continue to develop language and reading skills fluidly. Children tend to lose weeks or even months of learning when they do not practice their newly acquired language and reading skills over the summer months and other school breaks. Reading at home is essential to helping your child continue to grow his skills. When your child is bilingual, it is of particular importance to include reading materials from both languages.

There are ways to help your child to enjoy reading, if he or she does not, already. Many competing interests pull children away from academic pursuits. Reading in the second language can cement skills and provide a fun distraction, especially if reading time is also special parent-child time.

Popular children’s books available in other languages

Following are some suggested children’s books for preschool and grade school children. It is necessary for your child’s academic progress that you select books from her reading grade level, rather than her actual grade level if she is reading to herself. Many children read above grade level, and some read below grade level. Your child’s progress in both reading skills and language development, when reading appropriate books regularly, will increase. When reading aloud to your child, you can both enjoy more advanced books, which helps with their comprehension.

For preschool children, most often, you will read to them. Use your finger to point to words as you read. The left to right process is an essential pre-reading skill for English, Spanish, and many other languages; while some other languages use right to left pattern, such as in Hebrew text. Pointing helps your child understand the left to right, or the right to left pattern, for the languages they learn.

Each book listed below shows the foreign language versions from readily available online sources.

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Korean)
  • In a Small, Small, Pond by Denise Fleming (picture book – have your child create the story from the pictures, using the second language)
  • Harold and The Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (Spanish, French, Korean)
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew, Mandarin)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Spanish, German, French, Mandarin)
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess (Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew)
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle (Spanish, French, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese)
  • I’ll love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw (Spanish, French)
  • My FaceBook by Starbright Books ( Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, Korean, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Hebrew, Portuguese)

Read Aloud Chapter Books

  • Charlottes Web by E.B.White (Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Korean)
  • Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Cleary (Spanish, French, Japanese, Portuguese)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis (Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean)
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (German, French, Mandarin, Russian, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, Portuguese, Korean)

These are a few books to get you started on you bilingual reading lists. Once your child has identified the authors he especially enjoys, you can encourage him to explore more of that writer’s work.

For more information on enriching your child’s bilingual education, let Little Pim be your go-to source.

Seven ways to keep your kids excited about language learning

I haven’t written about my children’s language learning progress in a while, but with Thanksgiving coming I know it’s one of the things I’ll be grateful for this holiday.

Being able to introduce Emmett and Adrian to French is one of my greatest joys and privileges (and sometimes one of the biggest challenges). When I last blogged about language learning, I was ecstatic that my son had just read his first sentence in French.

We have actually have had a lot to celebrate since then – when we went to France this summer, Emmett spoke French to shopkeepers and kids his age, and he recently started working with his French tutor again and actually ENJOYS his French homework. Here he is doing a page of drawing sports activities while learning the difference between “à la” and “au”:

Emmett doing his French homework

Emmett turned seven in September and I am proud to say he can speak full French sentences, hold up his end of simple conversations and is curious about new words and expressions. He is also an avid reader (in English) which has opened up new teaching opportunities. I have been trying to keep it fun by getting him series he likes in French (Scooby Doo is a favorite right now).

My younger son Adrian, now 3 ½, started attending a French Immersion School this fall and has already made huge strides in just a few months. He and his best friend, Paul Camille (I just love saying that name, it’s so French), love to sing French nursery rhymes and Adrian now greets me in the mornings with a “Bonjour maman!” and thanks me with “Merci maman!”  which makes my day every time.

Adrian and his friend at French immersion school

While my children are not yet bilingual in French, I am so thrilled to see them with good accents (thanks to starting young with Little Pim and other resources) and a solid foundation to work from. I always tell parents that learning a second language is a life long journey and each child will move forward at his or her own pace. The important thing is to keep showing your child that language learning can be fun and that the rewards will be great if they can stick with it (not unlike playing a musical instrument).

Here are a few things that have worked with my boys to keep them interested and “on the journey” over the past few years:

    1. keep speaking French to them, even if it’s only a little here and there. Never let it disappear from their daily lives entirely even if they are “rebelling”. It’s not all or nothing with language learning….

    1. mix in one French book to the 2-3 books I read them at night. right now it’s Little Pim Colors or Feelings for Adrian and Asterix comics for Emmett

    1. make extra efforts to experience the fun parts of French culture with them (go to a French bakery for breakfast, attend a chocolate making workshop with a French chef, make crèpes with friends, etc.)

    1. play the “flash card game” with Little Pim flash cards (you get a treat for identifying 10 right in a row – this is a subway, car ride and restaurant waiting favorite!)

    1. always encourage, never nag or tell them they “said it wrong”

    1. bring in help in the form of tutors to supplement when needed

    1. find other families teaching their children the same second language so our kids can speak together and also just see they are not unique in learning two languages.

What will you be grateful for this Thanksgiving about your child’s language journey?  Write in with your successes and challenges and I’d be happy to answer any questions about raising kids with two languages.