Parents and Teachers of Bilingual Kids, Make Books and Reading Your Highest Priority!

parent reading bilingual book with childrenby guest blogger Adam Beck

Though I no longer teach at Hiroshima International School, I return there every year, with my family in tow, for the school’s annual spring festival. For me, my main motivation—apart from seeing old friends—is the sale of used books: children’s books of all kinds, from the school library and students’ homes, at rock-bottom prices.

I practically start drooling as I paw through them.

Each year I come home with dozens of books for our home library: books I can read aloud to my kids at breakfast, books we read together for “shared reading” (taking turns, page by page), and books they can read on their own.

A couple of years ago, we came home from the festival and I dumped two heavy shopping bags of books on the kitchen table. I pulled out a chair and sat, happily examining my treasure and taping together the loose covers and pages. That’s when my daughter Lulu, then 9, approached and exclaimed, “Daddy, we have too many books!”

The truth is, if you stepped inside my little house, you’d probably laugh: It’s bursting with books, to the point where there really isn’t room for them all. Our bookshelves overflowed long ago and there are now piles rising from the floor like sunflowers.

But I turned to Lulu and I replied: “Too many books? You can never have too many books!”

My philosophy of education

“You can never have too many books!” These seven words basically sum up my view of language education since I first became a teacher of bilingual children 20 years ago. Books and reading—lots of books and lots of reading—became my main ally in nurturing language development.

During my time at Hiroshima International School, I flooded my classroom with books and read often to my students. And as I watched their English ability grow, I realized that this same approach would become the cornerstone of my efforts to one day raise bilingual children of my own. I would flood the house with books in the minority language and make reading a daily staple of my family’s lifestyle.

baby reading bilingual book

500 books

I have seen the rewarding results of this “method” in my own personal experience, but in fact, there is also prominent research which indicates that a correlation between the number of books in the home and a child’s language development and ability, as well as academic achievement and even career success, is evident in countries and languages around the world.

Pursued over a period of 20 years and published in 2010, the authors of the massive study Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations analyzed the lives of some 70,000 people in a range of countries. At the heart of their research was this key question: About how many books were in your family’s house when you were 14 years old? (Any books, not simply books for children.)

At the same time, they gathered background data on these participants, such as the parents’ level of education and occupation, and their own schooling and work.

What does this research reveal? It demonstrates—even given the parents’ level of education and occupation, as well as such factors as gender, class, nationality, political system, and gross national product—that the impact of books is the same throughout the world and throughout many generations: Children in families with a home library of 500 books or more experience significantly greater educational success. On average, these children pursue their education for 3.7 years longer than children in homes with few or no books.

As the authors themselves write: “We find that parents’ commitment to scholarly culture [which they define as “the way of life in homes where books are numerous, esteemed, read, and enjoyed”], manifest by a large home library, greatly enhances their children’s educational attainment. …  Scholarly culture has a powerful impact on children’s education throughout the world, in rich nations and in poor, under communism and under capitalism, under good governments and bad, in the present generation and as far back in history as now living memory can take us. … A book-oriented home environment, we argue, endows children with tools that are directly useful in learning at school: vocabulary, information, comprehension skills, imagination, broad horizons of history and geography, familiarity with good writing, understanding of the importance of evidence in argument, and many others.”

baby reading a bilingual book

Implications for parents

Although this study was concerned more broadly with books in the majority language of each nation, and success in schooling, there are important implications for parents seeking to support the minority language of their bilingual children. After all, success in schooling is a direct outgrowth of success in language development.

  1. Build a home library of books in the minority language—the bigger, the better.

Even if you don’t own 500 books (both children’s books and books for adults count!), the more books you have, and the more you make use of those books by reading aloud to your children each day and reading together, the more your children’s language ability will grow.

And, as the study suggests, the language-related “tools” that your children will gain in the minority language will also be a source of support to them when attending school in the majority language. For example, the knowledge about the world that my kids have gleaned from our English books at home serves them well when studying similar topics in Japanese.

  1. Create an environment of bookshelves and books, not simply digital readers and e-books.

One important reason I haven’t yet shifted much from “real books” to e-books is because real books, in my view, provide a richer environment for the senses. It’s true, we’re slowly getting buried in books here, but the fact that my kids are surrounded by them (and stumbling over them), day in and day out, makes books and reading a way of life.

With bookshelves, books are continuously on display and available for discovery; this just isn’t the case with e-books lurking inside a digital device. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking e-books—they have many merits, not the least of which would be helping me dig out of my housekeeping dilemma. But, to me, they also run the risk of turning books from “public things” into “private things.”

For the sake of my children’s language development, I want our home environment to support my aims, and I think emphasizing books that are tangible and tactile, as “public things” always beckoning to the eye, is a more effective course during their formative years.

  1. Keep in mind that, as these researchers contend, “a taste for books is largely inherited.”

Of course, our main goal involves supporting the minority language of our bilingual kids. But have you ever considered the fact that, in a way, the support you’re providing to your children today will also affect the language development of their kids, your future grandchildren? (Sorry to turn you into a grandparent so soon!)

The study on “scholarly culture” makes this very clear in exploring the question: Where do libraries come from—who acquires a large library? And the authors conclude that “Scholarly culture, and the taste for books that it brings, persists from generation to generation within families largely of its own accord, independent of education and class.”

In other words, if you build a large library of books in your home, your children probably will, too, when they’re adults! And if your children do, your grandchildren will do the same for their kids! And so it goes, generation after generation, a love of language and literacy—and stronger language development—handed down far after your time.

 

Adapted from the book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids by Adam Beck, founder of the blog Bilingual Monkeys and the forum The Bilingual Zoo. Adam has worked with hundreds of bilingual and multilingual children, from toddlers to teens, as both a classroom teacher and a private tutor. He now lends support to many more families, in all parts of the world, via his book, blog, and forum. He has lived in Hiroshima, Japan since 1996 and is raising two bilingual children in Japanese and English.

How many books do you have in your home library or classroom library? Could strengthening this library help strengthen the language development of your children or students? Please add your thoughts below.

Supporting Oral Language Development in the Classroom & At Home

supporting oral language development

The process of language development in children is an amazing one, and full of so much complexity. Here, we offer 5 fun activity ideas that can help the oral language development of the kids in your home or classroom.

Oral Language and Literacy

So much of language is learned in the early years of life, simply by listening to and interacting with those around us. As time goes by, our oral language skills improve through practice and formal instruction. Oral language is made up of three parts: phonological (how sounds are combined), semantic (the smallest components of words), and syntactic (how sentences are put together).

Literacy begins with good oral language skills. In a classroom setting, it may feel counter-intuitive for a teacher to allow students more time to talk in groups, but there are a number of advantages to doing so. They gain valuable practice with new vocabulary, enhance conversational proficiency, and improve their ability to express their ideas. Also, kids often feel more relaxed when speaking to their peers because they aren’t so worried about giving the “wrong” answer.  As such, they are more open to absorbing and learning from what’s being discussed, in turn improving their overall language skills.

Activities for Oral Language Development

No matter the type of activity, keep these guidelines in mind when planning:

  • Keep the activity free from anxiety by creating a positive environment to limit the fear of embarrassment.
  • Provide clear instructions, possibly in different formats, so that all learning types can understand what’s expected.
  • Keep activities engaging by introducing fun or dramatic elements.
  • Lastly, remember that kids will need lots of repetition to practice their oral language skills.

Here are 5 activity ideas, from our post about language development in the classroom:

  • Mini Circle Chats:  Have your students sit in circles of 4 or 5. Give them a list of fun questions that encourage more than single-word answers. Let students know that they can engage in discussions together so they can talk about similarities and differences.  If you have a very diverse classroom, ensure that each circle includes a mix of cultures.
  • Word Play: Ask students to write 5-10 words (in any language). Have each student share one of their words with the class, and ask the student to explain why he or she chose to write down that word. Does it represent a feeling or an event that took place?
  • Memory Drawings: Have students draw their favorite memories, then share with the rest of the class, explaining the different elements of their picture. Or, spread out a long piece of paper and have students draw their memories at the same time on a wall mural. When the time is up, hang the mural up on the wall and let everyone spend a good amount of time looking at it up close and talking about it. Eventually you can have the students sit down on the floor in front of the mural and talk as a group about what they see and what thoughts come to their minds.
  • Multicultural Traditions:  Have students sit together in a circle to share one of their cultural or family traditions. Then ask others in the circle if they also participate in the tradition with their family and if so, whether or not they celebrate it in the same way. Help students notice that not everyone has the same traditions, and that even the same traditions can be celebrated in different ways.

Differentiated Instruction

For those times when group or peer interaction isn’t realistic, an individualized learning tool like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen can be invaluable in providing the differentiated instruction needed to help teachers reach every student, of all skill levels, in an effective way. Free video and print resources on the Language Lizard website help educators and parents use the Talking Pen to effectively develop and assess oral language skills, as well as build fluency and improve phonemic awareness with their students.

 

“Girl Talk” by Dean Wissing via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6r3SmY

 

We’re linking up with other bloggers to bring you fun ideas and a giveaway!

I Teach

Enter here for a chance to win a gift card in our Rafflecopter giveaway!

Graphic giveaway


Russian Language & Russian Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

russian language children's books

Today’s spotlight language is Russian. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Russian children’s books.

Where is it spoken?

Russian is the national language of Russia, as well as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. It’s also widely used in other European countries like Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia. Russian is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are approximately 260 million speakers worldwide. It’s one of six official languages of the United Nations.

How Many People Speak Russian in the US?

According to the 2011 US Census, there are about 900,000 Russian speakers in the US. There are large Russian speaking populations in New York, New Jersey, California, Washington and Oregon.

Interesting Facts About Russian

In the mid-1700s, there were three recognized styles of written Russian: Low, middle and high. Low style was used in everyday correspondence, middle for prose and poetry, and high for poetry and religion. Ultimately, middle style became the standard Russian of today.

The Russian language also makes use of patronyms, which convey lineage by using the names of male ancestors. A person’s first name is combined with a form of his/her father’s name and -ovich (son of) or -ovna (daughter of) is added onto the end. For example, if Natasha’s father’s name is Ivan, you would address her as Natasha Ivanovna.

Russian Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Russian books for children.   Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Russian language include: Farmer Duck, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, Goose Fables and The Giant Turnip (an adaptation of a humorous Russian folk tale).  There is also an illustrated Russian-English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Russian, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“Matryoshka dolls, Moscow” by neiljs via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5ZHNPu

Cinco de Mayo – History and Celebrations

In the US, we know that Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for “5th of May,” and is celebrated on that date. But most of us don’t know much else about this holiday. Below, our guest author provides some history and facts about Cinco de Mayo.

Not “Mexican Independence Day”

There is a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. In fact, there’s an entirely different date – September 16th – known as Día de la Independencia, which is the date in 1810 that marked the start of Mexico’s war for independence from Spain.

The History of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo, celebrated on May 5th each year, is a celebration of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in the Franco-Mexican War. Spanish, French and English troops invaded after Mexico stopped paying their debt to those countries. Although Spanish and English forces withdrew by April of 1862, French troops continued to fight to conquer Mexico as part of their empire.

On May 5 of that year, a poorly equipped Mexican army was able to defeat French troops at the Battle of Puebla. The French army continued to fight for another 5 years, but the Puebla victory became a Mexican symbol of resistance to foreign rule.

Cinco de Mayo Celebrations in Present Day

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo celebrations are primarily held in the state of Puebla, with speeches, parades and battle reenactments. Puebla keeps the memory of its historic battle alive with a museum, and battlefield maintained as a park. Because it’s not recognized as a federal holiday, and businesses remain open, Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated as much in other parts of Mexico.

In the US, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to celebrate Mexican culture and history. Cinco de Mayo traditions include festivals and parades that feature traditional food and music from Mexico.

The author, Vineet Maheshwari from thepensters.com blog, enjoys learning about diverse holidays and cultures, making language learning much more enriching.  She encourages people to take up the hobby of learning new languages!

Multicultural, Multilingual Libraries for Diverse Communities

multicultural library

April is an important month for our nation’s libraries. Take the time to celebrate the many ways our libraries contribute to our communities. In a previous post, we explored innovative ways for libraries to attract ethnic populations. Here, we take a look at ways libraries can transform a community.

Diverse Communities, Multicultural Library Offerings

Libraries have always been a place to read and learn, and have functioned as important community centers. Librarians assess their communities, its needs, and decide how best to meet those needs. Community outreach is a big part of a library’s purpose. As the US becomes more diverse, it’s imperative that libraries increase their services and programs to meet the needs of non-native-English speakers. These changes establish libraries as true centers of learning for the entire community.

National Library Week

The second full week of April each year is National Library Week. It’s a time to celebrate and promote our nation’s school, public, and academic libraries. This year’s theme is “Libraries transform.” It’s an initiative from the American Library Assocation (ALA) aimed at making more of the public aware of the many services libraries offer, and the value and impact of those services in communities. The main idea behind the initiative is that “[l]ibraries today are less about what they have for people and more about what they do for and with people.”

Dia! Diversity in Action

April 30 of each year is the culmination of Dia! Diversity in Action, a nationwide initiative from the ALA. Also known as El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), it provides support to libraries wanting to connect their patrons to more bilingual/multicultural services and resources. The initiative is a “daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures.”

Storytime in a Foreign Language & More

The Association for Library Service to Children, the world’s largest organization supporting children’s library services, includes multicultural programs in its list of recommended programs for school-aged children. One is Storytime in a Foreign Language, where members of the community are invited to come in and read books in their native language. Parents are also encouraged to share foreign language books and cultural stories with their children.

PENpal Audio Recorder Pen – A Unique Tool for Libraries

The PENpalTalking Pen” is great for libraries in search of an easy-to-use, multipurpose tool that will attract and meet the needs of their ethnic patrons. In addition to turning existing bilingual children’s books into audio books in over 40 languages, the Mantra Lingua PENpal can bring fully customized recordings to any learning resource. Just some examples:

  • Listen to sound-enable posters, photos or charts
  • Create interactive displays
  • Create verbal treasure hunts for children to follow
  • Provide step-by-step instruction for any Learning Center
  • Make an oral version of forms and booklets to facilitate communication with patrons.

The PENpal Recorder Pen is so versatile, it can be used to support reading, writing, speaking and listening for any person in need of an inclusive resource that develops literacy skills.

Do you have an outstanding multicultural library in your neighborhood?  Tell us about their innovative programs and services by commenting below!

 

“Canada Water Library Shelves” by Barney Moss via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dNwts8

Fun Ways to Learn a New Language

The key to learning a new language is not giving up. But what happens when you become bored or frustrated? The answer: try out a new, fun way of learning. Below are some ideas on how you can learn a new language more effectively, and have fun doing it.

Study in a New Place

When you study in the same location, day after day, it can get boring rather quickly. Instead of doing all your language studying in your home or college dorm, why not go to the coffee shop or library? Changing up the scenery will help boost your enthusiasm towards learning the language, and may even improve the way you retain it. There is a link in how your brain memorizes what you learn based on where you are. By switching up your location, you are actually forcing your brain to make different connections with what you are learning, and this will help you remember what you are learning.

Find a Conversation Buddy

Do a search online to find language learning friends to practice having conversations with. Even if you can’t find someone near you, you can still exchange emails, talk over Skype or even through instant messages. A great free website for connecting with other language exchange friends is Conversation Exchange. This site enables you to have real conversations with foreign language speakers who also want to learn your native language. It’s a win-win for both of you.

Try Podcasts in iTunes or English Radio Stations

You can find foreign language podcasts in a multitude of topics, including politics, entertainment, news and more. You can search for a podcast through Apple iTunes or Google Play. Find what interests you, and listen wherever you are.

Get Out and Practice

Whether you are inexperienced in the language or just timid about practicing, get out there and practice using the language as much as possible. If you’re taking a class, discuss with your teacher ways that you can practice your language skills. While you are traveling, stop someone and ask them for directions in the new language. Pick up the phone and order something, or call a foreign language customer support line.

Switch on the Subtitles

When you are watching a TV program, turn the closed captioning on. This allows you to see the people speaking, hear the words and see the texts all at the same time.

The guest author, Vineet Maheshwari, is from AdvancedWriters.com, an English paper writing service.

Japanese Language & Japanese Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

Japanese childrens booksToday’s spotlight language is Japanese. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Japanese children’s books.

Where is it spoken?

Japanese is the national language of Japan, and there are approximately 125 million speakers worldwide. Its origins are unknown, and it has no known linguistic relatives. There are dozens of dialects spoken in Japan, but the main distinctions are between Tokyo-type and Kyoto-Osaka-type.

How Many People Speak Japanese in the US?

According to the 2011 US Census, there are 436,100 Japanese speakers in the US. There are large Japanese-speaking populations in California, Washington, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Interesting Facts About Japanese

Modern Japanese began around 1600. It has a large number of “loan words” from the Chinese language (words of Chinese origin). In the last 50 years, the number of loan words from the English language has grown considerably, especially words that are technology related. For example, intānetto for “internet.” Loan words can also be shortened, like wāpuro for “word processor.”

The writing system consists primarily of three scripts: kanji, hiragana and katakana. Japanese writings can be in “western style,” which is in horizontal rows starting from the top, or “japanese style,” vertical columns starting from the right.

Japanese Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Japanese books for children.   Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Japanese language include: Mei Ling’s Hiccups, Farmer Duck, Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, Lima’s Red Hot Chilli and My Daddy is  Giant.  There is also an illustrated Japanese English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Japanese, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“Japan” by Moyan Brenn via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/pMe6Pj

Head Start Funding Opportunities

Head Start funding opportunities

In our Funding & Grants series of articles, we provide information for educators looking for special funding to help them purchase multilingual resources to support language learners. In a previous post, we focused on Title III grants. Here, we take a look at Head Start funding.

Head Start Program – Background Info

The Office of Head Start (OHS) is an organization within the US Department of Health and Human Services. It’s government-run, and has its roots in the 1960s. Head Start was designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing low-income families with a comprehensive preschool program – one that meets the emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs of children. Head Starts helps over a million children and their families in the US each year.

Head Start consists of a preschool program for 3 and 4 year olds, and an Early Head Start program, which offers services for pregnant women, infants and toddlers.

“Head Start comprehensive services include:

  • Early Learning
  • Screenings and follow-up for health, development, and behavior
  • Health and safety
  • Social and emotional development
  • Nutrition
  • Family goal-setting
  • Social services
  • Transition services
  • Services for children with disabilities”

Funding Resources

Head Start grants are awarded directly to public or private non-profit organizations. Eligible community organizations can be community-based, faith-based, or for-profit agencies.

OHS offers a comprehensive toolkit to help community organizations apply for Head Start funding. There are multiple steps that must be completed during the registration process, before submitting an application. The toolkit has directions on finding grant opportunities online, and helps you track your application after it’s been submitted.

 

“Head Start” by Fort Carson via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/bC9WKG

Bilingual Baby Books – 5 Tips to Get You Started

baby reading bilingual baby book

There are so many reasons to read to your baby, especially when you’re raising a bilingual child. Not only is reading a great way to bond, it’s a chance to link spoken words with visual images on the page. And don’t forget to get older siblings involved in the bilingual reading fun! Here are 5 tips to getting your bilingual baby book collection started.

Choosing the Right Bilingual Baby Books

What is Peace? bilingual children's book

Your first bilingual books for your baby should be made of sturdy material that can withstand strong baby hands and teeth. Board books with thick pages are a great choice, as are cloth and vinyl books that can be washed off.

For babies newborn to 6 months, choose books with large pictures in bright colors. Older babies love books with images of their favorite things, like balls, bottles and other babies.

Make Dedicated Reading Time

Life with a baby means getting a million things done each day (and night). Feeding, changing, nap time… repeat. Find a special reading time that works best for your family: maybe at snack time, after a bath or at bedtime. Soon, reading time will be one of the best parts of your daily routine.

Read with Enthusiasm!

Row Row Row Your Boat bilingual children's book

Whether it’s animals noises, singing or character voices, your baby (and you) will have more fun when story time is full of excitement, emotion and enthusiasm. But remember to keep your expression pleasant, so baby doesn’t get frightened if there are scary parts.

Name Everything as You Read

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See bilingual children's book

Don’t limit yourself to the text on the page. Feel free to point to pictures and objects and name them all in both languages!

Let Your Books Grow with Your Child

Handa's Surprise

As your baby grows, don’t forget to add more challenging stories to your collection. These will have longer sentences, with more complex vocabulary. But it’s ok to keep the old favorites in the rotation! Find multicultural children books that are culturally appropriate. International holidays and common experiences, like making friends or trying new foods, are great topics that your little one will enjoy.

What is your family’s favorite story to read? Comment below and let us know!

“Gordon” by 8/52 – Reader via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9XdiDp

Nepali Language & Nepali Books: Facts, Figures and Resources

nepali books spotlight languageToday’s spotlight language is Nepali. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Nepali books.

Where is it spoken?

Nepali is the official language of Nepal, a country in South Asia. It is also spoken in Bhutan, Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar), and India. There are about 17 million Nepali speakers around the world.

map of nepal nepali books bilingual childrens books

How Many People Speak Nepali in the US?

There are relatively large Nepalese communities in New York, California and Texas. According to the US Census Bureau’s most recent estimates in 2014, over 120,000 people in the US identify as Nepalese. Of these, about 25,000 are school-aged children.

Interesting Facts About Nepali

In the past, Nepali was called the Khas language and Gorkhali.

One of the most well known words in Nepali is “namaste,” which means hello. It is usually spoken with a slight bow and palms pressed together. It can be used as a greeting or a goodbye. A more casual greeting is “Tik chha,” which means “How are you?”

Nepali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Nepali books for children.   Here are some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Nepali language as well as a Nepali English dictionary for children.

Do you speak Nepali, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

 

“Nepal – Evening lights at Bhaktapur” by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6gHdSS

“Nepal-map-blank” By CIA World fact book (Image:Nepal-CIA_WFB_Map.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANepal-map-blank.png

Supporting Dual Language Learners and Bringing Multiculturism to the Classroom!