Tag Archives: bilingual children

Bilingual Children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language

bilingual children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language

We only learn how to read once. This is true for all of us: monolingual, bilingual or multilingual. Once we figure out how literacy works, it is with us forever.

The best part about bilingual children learning to read is that once they figure it out in one language, they can transfer their literacy to their other language(s)! It is a feat that can be mastered in leaps and bounds in any of a number of languages once the process is underway.

As we know, the key to literacy is language. For those first “ah ha” moments of literacy to occur, bilingual children need to know what the words are that they are reading. Sounding out a word on the page is useless if in the end the student still doesn’t know what the word actually means. This is an important reason why bilingual children should be encouraged to work on their literacy skills in their stronger language, which, for most children, is the language spoken at home. Continue reading Bilingual Children: Benefits of Learning to Read in the Home Language

Bilingual Storytime: 5 Different Types

Nowadays many libraries and bookstores are delighting their patrons with storytimes. Children love the magic of a good book that is brought to life through the skills of a good presenter. It is an opportunity for children to travel to new places that have never been explored and to experience adventures that have never been undertaken.

The elements of a successful storytime are essential: A book with a great storyline, captivating pictures and an energetic presenter who is willing to act out the parts.  Poor stories, illustration or delivery can disappoint children who were hoping to be swept away.

In many places around the world, bilingual storytimes are becoming extremely popular. In addition to the basic criteria listed above, presenters must be attentive to the language mix of the target audience. Some storytimes are only in one language (e.g. Spanish or Chinese) while others have a more bilingual approach (e.g. using both English and Spanish during the same storytime). While some storytimes are intended to support the home language, others are focused on helping students learn a new language.

Here are 5 different types of storytimes that you might find in your school or community: Continue reading Bilingual Storytime: 5 Different Types

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

10 Tips on Celebrating Cultural Diversity in the Classroom this Winter Season

Santa Lucia celebration

As the days shorten and the weather turns cold and crisp, families are warming up with their winter holiday celebrations. Candles, lights, sweets and gifts highlight this time of year in many cultures around the world.

Although celebrating specific religious traditions is not permitted in most classrooms in America, there is no reason for teachers to avoid winter holidays all together. In fact, teaching about winter traditions can be a wonderful way to help bilingual children, in particular, feel even more comfortable and included in the classroom setting. The overall focus should be on helping students appreciate both the diversity and similarities of our global traditions.

Here are 10 suggestions for how teachers can help students appreciate winter holidays from around the world:
Continue reading 10 Tips on Celebrating Cultural Diversity in the Classroom this Winter Season

Bilingual Books to Boost Reading Comprehension

As we all know, reading comprehension is essential in today’s world. It is necessary for mastering subjects in school, working at jobs, and deciphering written communications. Without it, we might be able to pronounce words on the page but would not be able to make sense of what the words mean when put together.

Reading comprehension demands that we create images and connections in our head based on the combination of words that we are reading. The more familiar we are with the words on the page and how they apply to what we have already learned or experienced in our lives, the better will be our comprehension.

For English Language Learners (ELLs), this is especially challenging. Most ELLs do not have a strong English vocabulary from which to pull, so it is important that they are presented with text that includes a lot of context. Pictures, short sentences, words that are repeated again and again can be especially helpful. If recognizing individual words is difficult, it will interfere with a student’s overall ability to comprehend what is being read.

Continue reading Bilingual Books to Boost Reading Comprehension

Bilingual Book Review: The “Our Lives, Our World” Series

In continuation of our celebration of The Bilingual Child Month, we’d like to share with you a review of three bilingual books that explore and celebrate global diversity. Read these books with your students to help them appreciate children just like them from around the world.

Goal! Let’s Play! – written by Joe Marriott and illustrated by Algy Craig Hall
Yum! Let’s Eat! – written by Thando Maclaren and illustrated by Jacqueline East
Brrmm! Let’s Go! – written by Julie Kingdon and illustrated by Leo Broadley
Paperback Ages 2-6
Review by Maureen Pugh

These three books comprise the “Our Lives, Our World” series, which explores the rich diversity of children’s lives and develops a worldwide perspective. Although the books are written and illustrated by different people, the series does have a cohesive style.

Each book introduces eleven children from eleven different countries, and every child is given a two page spread that introduces the child, and illustrates what the child is describing. The children are introduced with “my name’s Charlie …” or “I’m Abeba…”, so the text repeats the introductory phrases that we all want our children to be familiar with.

The text goes on with simple sentences, which contain mostly commonly-used vocabulary (and some new vocabulary), such as “I’m Khaled. We eat couscous and lamb tagine when we visit Grandpa.” Another example is “My name’s James, I play tennis with my family every weekend.”

Not surprisingly, Brrmm! Let’s Go! focuses on vehicles (bicycle, helicopter, tuk-tuk) and action verbs (to ride, to fly), while Goal! Let’s Play! introduces popular sports played in the country (ie, India – cricket, and Switzerland – skiing). Yum! Let’s Eat! depicts favorite foods from around the world.

Continue reading Bilingual Book Review: The “Our Lives, Our World” Series

5 Tips to Help Bilingual Children Shine in the Classroom

Back-to-school sales line the aisles of supermarkets and drug stores; children roam department stores picking out new fall clothes; and parents rush around with check-lists of items their children will need in the coming weeks and months.

Yes, the school year is about to begin.

For bilingual children, this time of year may feel a little daunting, especially for those who will be starting school for the very first time. In addition to all of the feelings that many students face on their first day of school (nervousness about what the teacher may be like, excitement about meeting new friends, concerns about what will be expected), bilingual children may have additional worries: Will they fit it? Will their English language skills be up to par. Will they understand everything that the teacher says? Will other students make fun of them because of their accent?

For teachers who are not used to working with bilingual children, there may be an assumption that to help these bilingual children feel comfortable in the classroom they will need extra attention. This may very well be the case, but if it is not done with care it can backfire. A bilingual child who already feels out of place may feel even more so if a teacher ends up giving him too much special attention. What a bilingual child may want the most is to have the chance to fit in and to be just like everyone else, not singled out due to special circumstances.

Continue reading 5 Tips to Help Bilingual Children Shine in the Classroom

10 Ways to Use Bilingual Books with Children

Research continues to show that support for the home language is an essential element in supporting children’s academic skills. Parents who engage with their children in their home language through discussion, reading books out loud and in everyday activities help children to do better in school, even if the school language is different from the home language. This is in contrast to research many decades ago that encouraged parents to speak the community language at home with their children, believing this would strengthen their children’s academic language skills. We now know that this past research was flawed and that, in fact, the opposite is true.

Bilingual books are wonderful tools to help create a bridge between languages. They give teachers the opportunity to educate children in the school language, while at the same time they foster an appreciation for the home language. Bilingual books encourage parents to continue using their home language, knowing that it will benefit, not detract from, their children’s school language learning. Continue reading 10 Ways to Use Bilingual Books with Children