Category Archives: At Home

Make 2014 your Year of the Strong Woman

 

It’s New Year’s Eve in Times Square, and who’s that woman with the big grin leading millions of Americans into 2014?  It’s Justice Sonia Sotomayor, with a commanding view of her hometown and her hand firmly on that all-important crystal button.

Why did organizers choose Justice Sotomayor?  To put it simply, she is an inspiration.  From humble beginnings, she graduated from Princeton and then Yale Law School.  Her law career went from strength to strength, and she rose through the ranks to become the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice and only the third woman to serve there.

What a great choice of person to bring us into the new year with a bang!  Organizers could have nominated someone like Miley Cyrus, who was performing in Times Square that night as well, but instead went with a hard-working, fearless, intelligent Hispanic woman who is a wonderful example to both boys and girls everywhere.

When Sotomayor pressed that crystal button, it was a call to us all to make 2014 our Year of the Strong Woman.

Of course as parents, caregivers, and teachers, we are always looking for ways to support and encourage our girls to grow into women as amazing as Sotomayor, and show our boys that women should be equally valued members of society. Reading about strong female characters in books is an excellent way to bring these ideas into the home and classroom.

There are a number of excellent bilingual books that feature interesting and feisty female protagonists that will appeal to all children.  Take a look at…

Yeh-Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella

Cinderella’s story is a classic one.  However the Cinderella you know from the movies is meek and passive, while the Chinese Cinderella is a much “stronger character”, according to reviewer Maureen Barlow Pugh.  She describes how our “kind and clever” heroine makes the decision herself to go to the Spring Festival through which she eventually marries the King, and “makes it happen because she is ‘so determined’.”  This Cinderella doesn’t sit around and wait for things to happen to her!  What a great example for little girls who want to grow up to be princesses.  You could use this as a talking point, too: maybe being a princess wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling as being a lawyer, or a doctor, or a professor, or a chemical engineer!

Jill and the Beanstalk

Manju Gregory’s retelling of the well-loved Jack and the Beanstalk really puts girls in their place – right on top!  This fairytale female even makes Jack envious of her beanstalk-climbing prowess.  It will be fun and useful for all children to see a girl in the traditional role of the warrior who takes on the giant…and wins.

 Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat

This timeless tale is a perfect example of how our culture already has awesome females embedded into its folklore.  Little ones will love the witty illustrations, but will also see how hard the hen works, and how tenacious she is — and how she creates a loaf of bread to be proud of all on her own!  This version of the tale won the UK National Literary Association’s Wow! Award in 2006, and you can use it in your home or classroom to reinforce the idea that all people, regardless of gender, can be successful and contribute to their community through hard work.

The Wild Washerwomen

Sometimes the roles that society stereotypically imposes upon women get to be just too much to bear, and that’s exactly what happens in this story illustrated by Quentin Blake.  Seven put-upon and strong-willed washerwomen throw off the shackles of their miserable existence and decide to have some fun for once!  The Wild Washerwomen effectively undermines the idea that girls are made to do “women’s work”.  It shows that we do have the choice to leave the dirty socks to someone else (maybe some washermen?) — and that we might even find love if we do!  Encourage your girls to let their hair down and go a bit wild with this adorable romp.

Mamy Wata and the Monster
Mamy (or Mami) Wata is an ancient river spirit revered in large parts of Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.  Her many followers perform rituals where they dance themselves into a trance.   She is a beautiful, complex water queen, known to be able to grant either fortune or bad luck.

In Mamy Wata and the Monster, one of the 100 Best African Books of the century, our protagonist confronts a supposedly fearful monster living in a cave, and manages to help him change his ways.

Mamy Wata displays many qualities we want our girls (and boys!) to aspire to: she is caring and kind, while also fearless and proactive.  She deals with tricky situations delicately and fosters a sense of community around her.  She is generous and brave.  She is, quite simply, a great role model in this fable.

Look out for more about Mamy Wata in a later post!

 

 

It’s so important that we raise the young women in our lives to be confident, motivated and ready to take on any challenge.  The books they read as children will play a huge part in helping them to develop these qualities, not to mention the fact that learning another language early on will give them a leg up academically and socially!  Give your girls the gift of self-esteem: show her books where women rule!

3 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving…Bilingually!

 

 

Thanksgiving is one of the only times during the year when we can all come together and celebrate the beauty in our lives that we experience for free.  We can enjoy our friends, neighbors, and families while avoiding the stress of some other holidays.  Best of all, everyone of all faiths and backgrounds can participate in this truly American holiday.

So how can you use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to promote bilingualism?

Reconnect

Thanksgiving is such a special time, perfect for getting back in touch with family members you haven’t seen in ages.  A great way to reconnect and promote bilingualism is to have children interview family members and friends at the table about what Thanksgiving words they might know in other languages.  You and your children will get to know where people have traveled to learn other words, and you’ll reaffirm connections between family members for whom English is a second language.  In some families there may be those who know more English and want to keep the family’s traditional language as well — and this activity is perfect for them too.

This game could be used to add bilingualism to a book the family makes together of pictures of the holiday traditions and foods in their home.

Time to Digest

After supper and before the apple pie comes out, the kids might be looking for something to do.  Encourage them to put on a performance of a bilingual book they’ve read!  They’ll love entertaining their relatives as they digest, and no-one can resist little ones who are eager to share something they’ve enjoyed.  They can put on the performance in both languages to further cement their understanding.

Cornucopia

Cultures all over the world make food the centerpiece of their most important celebrations.  Make your centerpiece something that involves the traditions of the cultures your child is learning about.  You can go further than a simple fall theme, too, and include celebratory food in general.  Families in which children are learning Bengali might want to try a cholar dal, usually served for the festival of Durga Pujor.  Are your little ones learning Mandarin?  Tangerines and oranges are often handed out for Chinese New Year.  Although these holidays aren’t to do with Thanksgiving, the foods traditionally associated with them all have a special quality that will add sparkle – and a global perspective! – to your table.  Add them to a special Bilingual Cornucopia in the middle of your dinner table and give all of your family and friends something bilingual to talk about.

Want more ideas about bilingual kids, different cultures and Thanksgiving?  Check out these great blogs from our archives:

http://blog.languagelizard.com/2011/11/17/thanksgiving-and-immigrant-cultures/

http://blog.languagelizard.com/2012/11/19/teaching-thankfulness-in-bilingual-classrooms/

 

 

From Summer Slide…to Reading Pride!

photo credit: KOMUnews @flickr.com

“[Here] is what reading is all about: yes, it will make kids smarter and give them a better start in life than non-readers, but for me that’s not the point. The point is that reading is fun…”

This is a quote from a recent article in British newspaper The Guardian by Charlie Higson, author of a variety of YA fiction including the Young James Bond series. Sure, as a writer he might have a vested interest in promoting reading, but there is no denying the inherent truth of what he is saying. To get kids to read, and keep reading, particularly over the long summer months, it must be a pleasurable experience. This is definitely the point that we need to get across to children now that the sound of the school bell has faded and it seems like forever before the leaves start to turn and they’re back at their desks. Summer is for having fun, and that includes reading!

Bilingual Books and the Summer Learning Slide

Many families, teachers, and librarians worry about the summer learning slide, and with good reason. A study done by Reading Rockets found that for “116 first, second, and third graders in a school in a middle class neighborhood …the decoding skills of nearly 45% of the participants and the fluency skills of 25% declined between May and September.” Attention clearly needs to paid to reading over summer vacation if we are to combat this trend.

For families who want to renew their children’s enthusiasm for reading, bilingual books can add a new dimension. For families who speak a language other than English at home, bilingual books can be a comforting way to read in their home language while simultaneously building their English skills over the summer.

Here are some tips to help your children and students use bilingual books for having fun and improving their reading skills before September:

  • Start with an old favorite. A great access point for bilingual reading is a book your child already knows and loves. If he or she is a fan of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, reading it in English and then in French will make the new language seem less intimidating. Kids will enjoy matching up the French vocabulary with the pictures and English words they already know!

 There are also a variety of folktales and stories from around the world available in bilingual editions (English and another language text on the same page), so children who speak a different home language can also find stories that are familiar to them. A group of parents who want to encourage their children to become bilingual readers could find a set of books to swap throughout the summer, so no-one gets bored!

  • Become the star of your book. Bring your bilingual story to life by getting kids to act it out using words from the less familiar language. Not only is this fun, but the kinaesthetic element will help embed their new vocabulary. The creativity and freedom involved in this activity will go a long way towards helping children understand that reading is enjoyable and reading a new language is even more fun when you practice it together!
  • Make a scene! Why not try using cardboard and found objects to recreate a scene that you see in the bilingual book you’re reading? The kids can go on a hunt to gather what they need and then label the scene in both languages used in the book.
  • Talk it out. Start your own mini-book group, even with your pre-schoolers! This would be especially useful for parents who are trying to encourage their children to speak English alongside a different home language.

At school, children are used to discussing books. The question-and-answer structure will be familiar to them and therefore allow them to feel more comfortable and take more risks speaking their new language. Simple discussions about feelings and plot are great tools to help embed new vocabulary: “How does the explorer feel about the animals at the end of the book? What has changed?” “What were your favorite plants that you saw in the drawings?” See if you can get your children to answer in both languages. They’ll feel more involved in what they’ve read and excited to continue their literary journey!

  • Let a librarian help. Kristina Robertson from colorincolorado.org, a website dedicated to helping the families and educators of English/Dual Language Learners, writes, “Libraries offer all kinds of resources and opportunities to ELLs and their families, but many families may not know about the kinds of services and programs that libraries offer.” Well, summer is the time to check it out! Head to your local library and see what bilingual resources they have available. Many libraries also hold summer reading challenges (see the next tip) which can easily be adapted to support bilingual reading. Colorin Colorado provides a useful list of links to different programs in major cities – if yours isn’t on here, a quick search on the internet may also provide results.

Are you a librarian? For you, summer is a great time to reach out to the community and welcome ELLs into your stacks. As Robertson writes, many families are unaware of the great summer reading programs and bilingual resources you offer – so get some flyers translated and start sticking them up around town!

…And here’s a list of other great ways librarians are improving literacy for ELLs all over the country: http://www.languagelizard.com/newsarticle8.htm

  • Challenge yourself! Embrace your child’s competitive spirit and let them enter the Scholastic Summer Challenge. Kids log minutes and see “how far round the world” they can read – as a parent, you could log double for bilingual books as they’ve technically read them twice!
  • Banish “Are we there yet?”s. Ah, the long car ride- a breeding ground for “I’m boooored!”s or, worse, long silences broken only by the tapping of little fingers on a Nintendo DS! But it doesn’t have to be this way: find a bilingual children’s book on cd, or record your own as a podcast, and bring it with you on your way to Grandma’s to keep the kids entertained and prevent the dreaded summer learning slump.

Summer is such a perfect opportunity to show kids how much fun bilingual reading can be. How are you planning to use bilingual books to prepare your kids for the exciting year ahead at school?

For more ideas about summer literacy, check out the following Language Lizard blogs:

Summer Literacy Programs

AND

Bilingual Books for Summertime Reading

 

 

 

 

World Folktales and Fables: Effective Teaching Tools Educate & Entertain Children

World Folktales and Fables Week bilingual childrens books

Reading world folktales and fables is not only a wonderful way to entertain and bond with children, it is also an effective way to educate them. The stories in classic folklore offer both social lessons as well as an opportunity to teach about cultures and languages. World Folktales and Fables week is celebrated the third week of each March, so be sure to enjoy a good folktale in your classroom or home!

Children love folktales and fables. With their simple characters and settings, as well as an enticing conflict early in the story, folktales immediately grab a reader’s attention. Recall The Three Billy Goats Gruff, in which all three goats need to get to the other side of the bridge for food, but a hungry troll stands in their way. The stories develop quickly, and often obstacles seem insurmountable before, in the end, everything is resolved to our satisfaction. Good triumphs over evil.

The repetition and rhythm we see in stories such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, also are very appealing to children. And, of course, everyone loves when humor and cunning are used to outsmart an adversary.

Folktales provide an excellent way to teach kids about the consequences of good and bad behavior, the importance of cooperation, and the rewards of courage and ingenuity. In one of my favorite stories, The Giant Turnip (an adaptation of the Russian story The Enormous Turnip), a class grows a huge turnip and works together to figure out how to pull it out of the ground. The story helps young children grasp the benefits of community and working together.

Folktales also offer a great entry point for teaching children about other cultures. For instance, the fable Dragon’s Tears is a wonderful starting point to explore Chinese Culture. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves can be used to begin teaching and learning about Arabic culture.

Bilingual editions of these traditional stories allow the parent or teacher to expose children not only to a different culture, but also to another language. I like to use Language Lizard’s bilingual version of the Indian folktale Buri and the Marrow (in which Buri wears an Indian sari) to expose my children to traditional Indian stories and foreign language scripts. The audio CD even lets them hear the story in Bengali and other foreign languages.

Folktales and fables have survived the test of time for a reason. So pick up a story, sit down with a child, and enjoy!

For World Folktales & Fables Week 2016, Language Lizard is offering a 10% discount on the following bilingual World Folktales and Fables available in English with multiple other languages: Buri and the MarrowThe Crow KingThe Dragon’s TearsGoose FablesLion Fables and Yeh Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella.  Simply enter coupon code FABLES2016 to receive the discount (valid through March 31, 2016).

“Fairy Tale” by Murgelchen94 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6odyvN

This blog post is linked with the monthly iTeachK-2 linkup. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!

Building Baby Brains with Two Languages

Building Baby Brains with Two LanguagesBy Karen Nemeth, Ed.M.
Photo credit: christine (cbszeto)

Learning to talk is one of the biggest jobs a baby has to do – so wouldn’t learning two languages be confusing? The answer is: No!

According to the latest research, babies’ brains are so well prepared to analyze, absorb, and make sense of language, that learning in two languages simply comes naturally.

Through their research, Dr. Patricia Kuhl of Washington University and her colleagues have found that infants who grow up bilingual maintain brain plasticity for a longer period of time as they develop two distinct yet connected languages. We also know from York University’s Dr. Ellen Bialystok’s research that this early experience helps children get to school with more advantageous self-regulation skills and can benefit brain function even until old age.

That’s why growing numbers of parents and childcare programs are endeavoring to raise children who are bilingual right from the start.  Continue reading Building Baby Brains with Two Languages

Top Bilingual Books for Summertime Reading

When it comes to choosing bilingual books to share with our little ones during the summer, the choices seem endless. Who can decide on just a few when there are so many to choose from?

To help you pick the right bilingual books for your family this summer, we have put together the following lists based on some popular topics.

We hope you will find just the right books to make your summertime as enjoyable (and bilingual) as possible. Feel free to head over to our main Language Lizard website to find even more fantastic bilingual books!

Humorous Stories

Kids love reading books that make them laugh or have a funny, unexpected twist at the end. Get your children giggling with these books:  Continue reading Top Bilingual Books for Summertime Reading

Bilingual Children: Summer Travel Activities

bilingual children: Summertime Travel Activities

Summer is a wonderful time of year to travel: Children are out of school and the warm days beacon for lazy hours at the beach or walks through cool forests. Whether we are traveling by land, air or sea, we can make bilingualism part of every bilingual child’s summertime adventures.

Both parents and teachers can engage bilingual children in fun travel activities, whether it is during a bus ride with a summer class or as a family on the way to visit grandma and grandpa. Nothing helps the time pass more quickly (and more enjoyably) than with travel activities. Why not make bilingualism a part of it?

Here is a list of some favorite travel activities to do with bilingual children:  Continue reading Bilingual Children: Summer Travel Activities

Bilingual Children & Summer Literacy Programs

Bilingual Children and Summer Reading Programs

Summertime is upon us! The school year is coming to an end and our favorite summer activities are right around the corner: Running barefoot through sprinklers, savoring a neon-colored snow cone and sitting in the shade of a favorite tree with a good book. What could be better?

Even though school is letting out, children can strengthen their literacy skills with summertime literacy programs, available through local libraries, community centers, schools, bookstores and even online. Bilingual children, in particular, can significantly improve their literacy during the summer by reading bilingual books in both of their languages.

As we mentioned in our previous article, literacy can grow and develop regardless of language. The most important thing is that bilingual children are provided with quality reading materials and an incentive to read them. Instilling a love of reading should always be the primary goal for our students.

Here is a list of programs that can help students strengthen their literacy skills this summer:
Continue reading Bilingual Children & Summer Literacy Programs

Teaching Children Languages: Benefits & Strategies

The benefits of bilingualism has been a hot topic in recent years. Magazines, newspapers and blogs extol the fascinating ways in which the bilingual brain effortlessly manipulates more than one language at a time, working more effectively and efficiently than a monolingual one on specific types of tasks.

Thanks to their brain’s more robust executive control system (which comes from switching off the language that is not needed), bilinguals are believed to have better skills in tuning out distractions, which means that they are able to focus on what is most relevant at the moment. This can be a very important life skill. In addition, Prof. Ellen Bialystok discovered through her research on bilinguals that bilingualism helped those with Alzheimer’s continue functioning at higher cognitive levels despite having this debilitating disease. Basically, the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in bilinguals didn’t show up for five or six years later than those who only spoke one language. Another indication of the robustness of the bilingual brain.

While this research is exciting and inspiring, we also need to make sure that we are careful about how we introduce young children to additional languages. Using a grammar book with a young child may not be the way to go and can even cause a child to never want to learn another language ever again – even though that same strategy may be effective for a teenager or an adult.

Continue reading Teaching Children Languages: Benefits & Strategies

Supporting Bilingualism: 4 Reasons Parents Should Speak Heritage Languages at Home

Although the United States has been dubbed “the graveyard of languages” for its lack of heritage language support, today’s children’s futures need not be so bleak. Given the right encouragement, immigrant families can pass on the best of both worlds to their children: a home language in addition to the community language.

For many decades there has been a common misconception that immigrant families will help their children most by completely switching to English in the home. The belief is that the more a family uses English together, the stronger their English language skills will become.  While it is true that family members can help one another by practicing English together, English should not supplant the native language in the home. In fact, dropping the home language in favor of English can end up having many negative consequences.

Why would a family do this? A strong desire to prepare children for a competitive education system is one very common reason. Continue reading Supporting Bilingualism: 4 Reasons Parents Should Speak Heritage Languages at Home