Want your child to learn a second language, but wondering if it will be worth the time and effort? Kids’ schedules are already full of school and extracurricular activities, so parents must be selective when taking on anything new. Read on for some compelling reasons why bilingualism is definitely worth the effort.
Bilingual Babies: Cognitive Benefits from Infancy
Researchers have found that babies from bilingual homes have greater cognitive abilities, specifically with what’s known as “attentional control.” This difference occurs even when they’re too young to speak. Babies from bilingual households appear to be better than their monolingual peers at learning and anticipating new patterns.
Young bilingual children have also been shown to have greater fundamental social and emotional skills that evolve from their attentiveness to social cues when multiple languages are spoken at home.
Infants are very open to learning new languages, especially when there is a lot of interactive dialogue between baby and caregiver(s). Studies show that the more back-and-forth interaction young kids are exposed to, the greater the academic and cognitive outcomes they have later, during school-age years. This type of interactive dialogue, in the form of playtime or when reading bilingual baby books together, is also quality bonding time, with huge emotional and psychological benefits for babies and parents.
For young dual language learners (DLLs) who speak the non-majority language at home, it is important to stress the benefits of bilingualism early on. Even before entering school, framing bilingualism as an asset – and not a liability – gives young DLLs a boost when they enter kindergarten. When DLLs are given support in their home language during preschool years, they perform better across all academic and social measures after they enter elementary school.
Students attending dual-language classes – whether they’re learning English or another language – also tend to be happier, have better attendance, fewer behavioral problems, and have higher test scores.
Across the country, more schools are embracing fluency in multiple languages by offering a special award called the “Seal of Biliteracy” that recognizes the hard work of becoming biliterate. Students who earn the Seal are more attractive to colleges and employers, leading to positive effects on earning potential over their lifetimes.
Adulthood: Bilingual People Become Global Citizens
According to the US Census, about 25% of Americans can converse in a second language. Compare that number to the 50% of people globally who are bilingual or multilingual. In some parts of Europe, that figure is actually closer to 100%.
From a strictly practical perspective, being a nation of monolinguals puts us at a disadvantage, not just in terms of the world economy, but in terms of our national security as well. It’s imperative that we have citizens who can clearly communicate with business and political leaders from around the world.
Not only that, bilingualism helps to bridge the divide across cultures and nations. Speaking other languages makes us better global citizens. At a time when tensions among countries and cultures runs high, knowing the language of another group of people is one of the best ways to understand their perspective, and find common ground.
For families who have recently immigrated, maintaining the home language is a way to connect younger generations to their families’ history and culture.
Lifelong: Potential Brain Benefits of Bilingualism
Studies have found that bilingual people are better at multitasking. Because their brains have a more robust executive control system (from switching off the language that is not needed), bilinguals are generally better at tuning out distractions, allowing them to focus on what is most relevant at any given moment.
Researchers have also found evidence that speaking more than one language can delay the onset of dementia in Alzheimer’s patients by as many as 5 years.
These are just a few of the many amazing benefits of bilingualism. And the great news is, experts say you don’t have to achieve full fluency before you begin experiencing them. So sweep those hesitations aside, and set out on your language learning journey!
April 30th of each year is the culmination of Dia! Diversity in Action.
Dia! Diversity In Action
Also known as El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), Dia! is a nationwide initiative from the American Library Association that helps libraries connect their patrons to more bilingual and multicultural resources.
One of the primary goals of Dia! is to encourage families of all backgrounds to read daily with their children in their home language. They want to honor and maintain cultural diversity by helping families find bilingual books and other resources to nurture literacy development.
Importance of Multicultural Libraries
Our country’s population is becoming increasingly diverse. Often, new immigrants are struggling to learn English, while maintaining a connection with their heritage. Public libraries have stepped up to welcome these newcomers, and also to celebrate the diversity of our communities.
Many libraries are using creative strategies to reach their patrons, like offering multilingual storytimes, increasing their book holdings in more languages, and offering specialized workshops tailored to meet the needs of immigrant families.
Diversity In Action
Ready to take action in your own community? Check out the official website for Dia! to get free resources, like book lists, coloring pages, planning guides and more. There’s even a toolkit to help you start your own bilingual book club. They also offer guidance on advocacy, and action steps for those who are interested in getting more involved with the Dia! mission.
Have you ever picked up a lucky penny? Or rubbed a rabbit’s foot for good luck? Cultures around the world have different lucky charms. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a superstitious person, you may have “knocked on wood” after making a statement, or felt the urge to toss salt over your shoulder after it was spilled.
Whether you believe in good luck or not, here are a few lucky charms from around the world. The reasons behind them might be compelling enough to make you a talisman collector, too.
Long before acorns were considered good luck, they were associated with magic between two witches. When passing each other in the woods, witches would hand each other acorns to let one another know who they were and that they were safe in one another’s company.
As a good luck symbol, acorns are said to protect one’s health. Carrying an acorn is believed to protect from illnesses, aches, and other pains. If you’re already ill, it is said to speed up the healing process and alleviate any pain.
This Italian horn known as “cornicello” has been used since ancient times to ward off the evil eye. It is still a common good luck symbol in Italy and is often worn by nursing mothers and pregnant woman. It was also used to maintain happiness in marriage, as many believe the evil eye can affect marriages and relationships.
The inspiration for the horn shape comes from many different sources. For some horns, the shape of a chili pepper served as inspiration. Historians differ, pointing to the African eland horn as inspiration instead. Over time, the cornicello has become more stylized and can appear in many different shapes, some of which no longer even look like a horn.
Dala, or Dalecarlian, horses were first carved hundreds of years ago as a Swedish pastime. Horses were considered a holy animal, so many Swedes would use scraps from wooden furniture and other projects to craft horse figurines.
Today, the horse is also a symbol of good luck. Dala horses are often quite costly, so many people will buy unpainted ones and add the art themselves. Typical colors are red, white, or green, and in addition to good luck, the horse is thought to bring strength and dignity. It is also recognized as the unofficial symbol of Sweden.
The Chippewa Native American dream catcher is used for those with trouble sleeping, specifically those with nightmares. When the person is asleep, the dreamcatcher is said to trap all the nightmares of the sleeper, to bestow good luck, and allow good dreams to flow freely.
Legend has it that when the sun rises, the bad dreams caught in the dream catcher dissolve, as they cannot survive daylight. The Chippewa, or Ojibwa, Native Americans designed these dream catchers to help protect their children. The tradition is associated with the Asibikaashi, or Spider Woman, a woman from Ojibwa legend who was a caretaker of all children.
India and Thailand
Elephants as a symbol for good luck are common all over Asia, but they are especially prominent in India and Thailand. They symbolize strength, power, stability, and wisdom. Many people believe that an elephant facing your door will bring good luck into your home. As a result, many business owners in Asia will place elephants in the entrance of their shops for good luck.
The common belief is that the trunk must be up for good luck, and some go so far as to say that the trunk facing downwards brings bad luck. Others believe that a trunk facing down allows for good fortune to be passed freely among everyone, not just the beholder.
The odds of finding a four-leaf clover is allegedly 1 in 10,000, which is why it’s considered so lucky. The four sides symbolize faith, hope, luck, and love, and anyone who finds it is said to have great fortune that day.
One Christian legend claims that Eve took a four-leaf clover with her after being banished from Paradise to remind her of it. Four is also considered a masculine number and relates to the four sides of the cross, so some believe that the four-leaf clover is a piece of Paradise or the Garden of Eden.
Israel and Middle East
The Hamsa Hand, or Khamsa, is common in both Jewish and Muslim communities as a sign of good luck. This charm can be worn with the hand facing up or down. It is said to protect people from negative energy and bring happiness to the beholder.
Depending on the culture and community, the symbol of the hand bears different meanings. The word “hamsa” references the number five in Hebrew and is said to symbolize the five books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In Islam, the five fingers are associated with the Five Pillars of Islam. The eye on the hand represents an eye that sees everything and watches out for the beholder.
A famous feng shui charm, the jin chan, or “Golden Toad,” is popular in China as a symbol of luck and success. The frog is said to appear during a full moon, bearing good fortune and warding off any bad news. With only three legs, sitting in a pile of coins with a coin in its mouth, this frog can be traced back to Chinese legends.
According to legend, Daoist God Liu Hai encountered a fox he wanted to save and transform into a beautiful woman who would help him become a god. For this to occur, he needed to trick a frog into going into a well, and did so successfully. He used the frog’s power, and now Jin Chan is supposed to be Liu Hai.
The Maneki Neko cat statue is characterized by its waving paw. “Neko” means cat in Japanese, and “maneki” means beckoning. If the left paw is raised, it’s believed that the cat will attract customers and bring good business to shop owners. If the right paw is raised, it’s believed to attract money and prosperity, making it the more common Maneki Neko style.
The Maneki Neko can also come in many different colors: white signifies happiness, black signifies protection, green signifies health, and calico signifies extreme good luck.
Milagros, which translates to mean “miracle” in Spanish, are small religious charms depicting angels, crosses, arms, legs, animals, and other subjects. They are often nailed to a cross or other religious object or carried in one’s pocket for good luck.
Each subject carries a different meaning. Milagros are often used with the institution known as manda, where a person asks for a favor from a saint. Upon doing so, they will then leave a milagro at a shrine of the saint they have asked a favor for.
The Nazar, or evil eye, is an amulet for protection against those without good intentions. The origin of the Nazar hails from Turkey and its neighboring countries. Unlike the Hamsa, the Nazar has no religious significance. Because of this, it has become popular in countries all over the world.
In Turkey, the Nazar is usually a beaded, blue jewel that is worn or used on personal items for protection. Though its meaning has been adapted to different cultures, it is frequently associated with protection from the evil eye, a malevolent glare from an onlooker.
Nenette and Rintintin
Nenette and Rintintin are Parisian yarn dolls with various origin stories, many of which begin during World War I. Nenette, the boy doll, and Rintintin, the girl doll, were given as good luck charms to French soldiers or worn by Parisians to protect them during World War I raids.
A piece of yarn links Rintintin and Nenette and should not be broken. Additionally, people believed that the good luck charms should never be purchased, only given, or they would lose their protective powers.
“Glücksschwein” is a German expression that translates to “lucky pig.” In Germany, pigs are associated with fertility and good luck. They are often featured on cards expressing best wishes, especially around New Year. They can also be found in candy and there are treats shaped like pigs all over Northern Europe. Norway and Sweden also have phrases that translate to “lucky pig.”
Another common association with pigs is wealth. People all over the world store coins in piggy banks to attract future wealth and protect their earnings.
A pysanka is an Easter egg decorated with intricate designs using a wax-resist method. Ukrainians have been decorating these eggs for many generations. They represent health, fertility, love, and wealth.
As times have changed, interpretations of the pysanky decor have evolved. Many symbols, such as the fish and cross, are now interpreted through the lens of Christianity. In pre-Christian times, a fish signified a plentiful catch, but it has since become commonly associated with Christ, the fisher of men. Despite this evolution in meaning, the designs themselves still emulate the pre-Christian era.
The scarab beetle as a good luck charm dates all the way back to 2345 B.C. The amulet of this beetle represented new creation and eternal life, and is associated with the Egyptian God of the Rising Sun, Khepri.
This good luck charm first emerged in Ancient Egypt. Egyptians observing the scarab witnessed it roll dung across the ground and associated this with the sun’s journey across the sky. The scarab would also lay its eggs in the bodies of dead animals, something the Egyptians connected with life being created from dead matter.
Unlike many of the other good luck charms you’ll find around the world, Guatemalan worry dolls are created to help someone fall asleep. They are particularly popular with children, though they are a common gift for anyone with mild anxiety who is struggling to fall asleep or who needs luck getting a good night’s rest.
As they are getting ready to fall asleep, the person holds the doll and tells it their troubles. The worries are then passed on to the doll and away from the person. However, some believe each doll can only manage one trouble at a time. For additional worries or fears, the person needs additional dolls.
Unique Good Luck Charms
We’ve created a visual with our favorite good luck charms. Next time you visit another country, be on the lookout for one of these good luck charms—and consider bringing along one of your own. It never hurts to trade a bit of good luck with a stranger, even if it’s just a lucky coin for them to carry in their pocket.
This article was adapted, with permission, from one originally posted on invaluable’s website.
This post was shared on the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop, a place where bloggers can share multicultural activities, crafts, recipes, and musings for our creative kids.
April is a great month for book lovers! Not only do we have Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R.) Day, there’s also National Library Week and a whole host of reading-related holidays that celebrate books, poems and libraries.
Children’s Book Day
April 2nd of each year, the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, is also Children’s Book Day. It’s a holiday that celebrates children’s book authors, promotes the importance of early literacy, and is a great chance to share your favorite book with the young readers in your life.
National Library Week
The second full week of April each year is National Library Week. It’s a time to celebrate our school and community libraries. Libraries have been using creative strategies to attract and meet the needs of their multicultural patrons. Many libraries have transformed themselves into centers of information and learning for their diverse communities.
National Library Week aims to make the public aware of the many services libraries offer, and the value and impact of those services to our communities. Use #NationalLibraryWeek on social media to spread the word, and share what you love about your local library.
D.E.A.R (Drop Everything And Read!)
April 12th of every year, author Beverly Cleary’s birthday, is known as Drop Everything And Read Day. (The idea of D.E.A.R. Day was first introduced in her book Ramona Quimby, Age 8.) Families are encouraged to take 30 minutes (or more!) to enjoy books with their kids. Hopefully it will spark a love of family reading time all year-round!
School Library Month
April is also School Library Month – a celebration of school librarians and their programs. Interested in increasing the bilingual and multicultural book offerings in your classroom or school library? A bilingual lending library can inspire a love of reading in students, and increase parental involvement. Our post offers tips to help take your bilingual lending library from vision to reality.
Dia! Diversity in Action
April 30th of each year is the culmination of Dia! Diversity in Action. Dia! provides support to libraries by connecting 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.”
Have you ever considered introducing a bilingual story time program for your school or library? Not only would a story time offer children who speak the same language a chance to gather, it would help all students with literacy, cultural appreciation and a sense of community.
Will you be celebrating any of April’s reading holidays? Comment below and let us know how!
“Toronto: book stacks at Toronto Reference Library” by The City of Toronto via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/gjDrZY
Folk tales are stories passed down through generations of people. Fables are just one type of folk tale – short stories, often featuring talking animals, that teach a lesson. These fables are crafted to appeal to children. Aesop, believed to have lived around 560 BC, is one the most well-known fable creators.
The simplified story lines and characters of folk tales and fables make them great for teaching life lessons to little ones. Stories tend to develop quickly, with a central conflict and a satisfying resolution. Some of these tales feature rhymes or line repetition, making them practically irresistible to the youngest of readers.
Travel to a far-off time and land with Chin Wah and his magical golden fish (The Dragon’s Tears), or meet the famous Bengali woman (in Buri and the Morrow) who must outsmart the forest creatures who want to gobble her up!
Reading world folk tales and fables with the kids in your family or classroom is a great opportunity to teach, bond and work on literacy skills.
Folk Tales: Resources & Recommendations
Download our free multicultural lesson plans. Several of these plans incorporate folk tales and fables to build literacy stills and explore different cultures. For example, the “Language, Customers, Culture in India” lesson plans utilize the folk tale Buri and the Marrowas a way to learn about Indian cultures and customs with your students. The “Building Community in the Classroom” lesson plans use The Giant Turnip to promote discussion about community and cooperation, while examining diverse countries.
Explore our site for numerous bilingual world folktales and fables in many languages. We also offer the Myths and Legends collection (bilingual versions of Pandora’s Box, Isis and Osiris, Beowulf, The Children of Lir), which can be a good starting point for older children to explore classic stories from other cultures.
What are your favorite folk tales? Comment below and let us know!
Image is derivative of “Blue Marble” by NASA, Reto Stöckli, Robert Simmon
We are thrilled to announce a brand new bilingual children’s book! Mungo Makes New Friends is sure to be a hit with the kids in your classroom and family.
Mungo Makes New Friends
Mungo Makes New Friends is a story about an old horse who, at first, is quite lonely on his own. He has seen better days, and thinks there isn’t much to look forward to. One by one, Mungo and the reader are introduced to brand new animal friends. However, when winter comes, and Mungo must move into the stable, what will happen to his newfound friendships?
This lovely story about the joys of friendship is written by Gill Aitchison. Jill Newton creates the story’s beautiful illustrations, set in the Scottish Highlands.
Read Mungo Makes New Friendswith the children in your family or classroom, and open up a discussion about the value of friendship, and the importance of inclusion. They will love to follow along with the adventures of Mungo and his friends, while also building their literacy skills.
Mungo Makes New Friends is available in English with Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Farsi, French, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Nepali, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovakian and Spanish.
Language Lizard was thrilled to be a sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD), a movement to bring attention to the need for more multicultural children’s books in classrooms and libraries. Check out our previous post about the importance of books that feature diverse characters and multicultural stories.
We enjoyed discussing issues about multicultural books with educators, authors and parents as part of the #ReadYourWorld Twitter party in January. If you missed it, be sure to sign up for the MCBD newsletter so you can join in next year.
As part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, we shared a few of our favorite bilingual multicultural books with bloggers and book reviewers, and we’re excited to share their feedback here.
Chinese New Year begins on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. It’s a special time to honor ancestors and renew family bonds with traditional rituals and feasts. Also known as Spring Festival, for those who celebrate it, it’s one of the most important social and economic holidays of the year.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
Chinese New Year is tied to the Chinese lunar calendar. The celebration begins on the night of a new moon, and culminates with the Lantern Festival, when families gather in the streets with beautiful lighted lanterns.
Part of preparations for the new year is a thorough cleaning of the home, to invite good fortune in the new year. Each day of Chinese New Year is celebrated with friends and family, enjoying feasts, music, gifts, and red envelopes full of good luck money.
YEAR OF THE PIG
This year will be the Year of the Pig! In Chinese culture, pigs are the symbol of wealth and good fortune. According to legend, people born in the year of the pig are realistic, thrifty, and are sure to get enjoyment from their lives. They are never lazy, and bring enthusiasm to all their endeavors. The colors yellow, gray and brown, and the numbers 2, 5 and 8 are considered lucky for those born in the Year of the Pig.
MULTICULTURAL CELEBRATION IN THE CLASSROOM
Celebrate this special holiday with the bilingual children’s book Li’s Chinese New Year. Available in English and your choice of 12 languages, the story introduces us to Li, who must make the important decision of which animal costume he will wear to the school’s big New Year assembly. Readers will find all twelve of the zodiac animals in the story, and discover facts and activities relating to the holiday at the back of the book.
Now through February 28, 2019 get 10% off Li’s Chinese New Year by entering discount code CNY2019 at checkout!
Share this fun multicultural holiday with your students by downloading our free Chinese New Year lesson plan so students can explore the holiday by utilizing geography, crafts and discussion. Compare similarities and differences between the Chinese New Year and the American New Year with a Venn diagram activity. The lesson also includes suggestions for teaching about world geography and population density.
The book Li’s Chinese New Year is the inspiration for this lesson plan. It introduces students to the Chinese New Year celebrations and ties concepts together in the lesson plan. Teachers can also use the story to introduce students to Chinese characters in the bilingual English-Chinese version of the book while reading the story out loud in English.
The primary focus of the lesson plan is to help children cultivate an appreciation for cultural and linguistic diversity. Through collaborative activities and discussions, students can build positive relationships with one another while learning to appreciate our world’s global diversity.
Do you celebrate Chinese New Year? Comment below and let us know what your favorite part of the holiday is!
Language Lizard is a proud sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 25, 2019. Children’s books that showcase diverse, multicultural characters have long been underrepresented on the shelves of libraries and bookstores. Here’s why the next time you’re book shopping, you’ll want to make multicultural children’s books a top priority.
We Need More Multicultural Children’s Books
Of the 3,700 children’s books reviewed by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2017, only 25% featured non-white characters. While this is an improvement over the 10% in 2014 , clearly publishers still have a long way to go. Beyond that, we also need libraries and bookstores to carry more multicultural books, so that teachers, parents and children can have access to them.
When you’re selecting your next set of books, seek out ones that challenge stereotypes by featuring positive and realistic multicultural characters who will be empowering role models to young readers. Look for books with story lines that have universal appeal, so every child will be enthusiastic about reading.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day – January 25, 2019
Support Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 25, 2019!
Use #ReadYourWorld on social media, and share your love of diverse characters and multicultural stories. It’s an easy way to help get more multicultural children’s books out into the world. There were 3.2 billion social media shares for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018… let’s beat that number this year!
Go to the event’s website and find other ways to support this great cause. There’s a free classroom poverty kit, diversity books lists and activities.
Check out their eBook fundraiser – all of the proceeds will be used to gift books to teachers for their classroom libraries!
The 2020 US Census has been a hot topic in the news* because of a controversial citizenship question. The #CountAllKids campaign wants you to know why it’s absolutely essential that our nation’s children are counted.
Our Constitution mandates that the government will count its population once every decade, and our next Census will happen in 2020. Because of a controversial citizenship question announced by the US Census Bureau in March of 2018, there is the fear that millions of immigrants may decide not to complete their surveys. Already vulnerable, marginalized communities could go uncounted, leading to a massively skewed distribution of Congressional representation and federal funding.
There are also undercounting risks that will specifically hurt our nation’s children. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s website, “Researchers believe up to 2 million children under age 5 could be missed in the count…” Vital health insurance programs, foster care programs, low-income education programs, special education funding, and new school locations are just a few ways that children will be directly impacted by the Census results.
As the Count All Kids website states, “When we miss young children in the census, it has serious consequences for them, their families, their communities and our nation – with many of those consequences lasting for at least 10 years.” Go to their website to learn more about the upcoming US Census and to find out how you can support the #CountAllKids campaign.
*Note: At the time of publication, the ultimate fate of the citizenship question was still being argued in the court system.
Supporting Dual Language Learners Bringing Multiculturism to the Classroom!