Bilinguals around the world will tell you that they do not have the same degree of fluency in all of their languages. A language that is used primarily in academic situations may come across as stiff and stilted when used in less formal situations. Family issues are often more easily discussed in a home language. Depending on where we live when our first child is born, we may only know the vocabulary for baby items in one language and find the same discussions difficult when visiting family in our country of origin. The concept of a “balanced bilingual” is rarely a reality in the world of multilingualism.
Despite this, we very easily fall into the trap of believing that bilingual children are the exception to the rule. We have come to expect that they should have equal mastery of both of their languages. However, just as with adults, a child’s level of linguistic ability will differ depending on situation and language. For example, it may be difficult for a bilingual child to recount events in a home language that took place in the school language. Words, phrases and meanings used in a school setting are not necessarily used in the home language. Continue reading Dual Language Books Benefit Bilingual Children
Summer is such a wonderful time for children: playing with neighbors in the sprinkler, splashing with friends at the local pool, eating popsicles on the back porch. Summertime freedom is expansive and overwhelming.
The downside of summer for many teachers, especially those teaching English Language Learners (ELLs), is that they often worry that all of the hard work that their students put in during the school year will decline during the summer months. Without daily input of spoken and written language, a student often starts to forget what she has learned and ends up working hard to get back on track in the fall. However, this need not be the case.
There is no reason why literacy has to be put on hold during the summer months with bilingual children. In fact, summer is a perfect time to give home and school languages the undivided attention they deserve. Without the need to focus on homework and after school activities, bilingual children and parents can have a wonderful time with literacy. It doesn’t take a lot of work. It just demands a good set of resources to work with and the willingness to follow through. Continue reading Keep Literacy Alive for Bilingual Children During the Summer
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
Written by Divya Karwal
Illustrated by Doreen Lang
Review by Maureen Pugh
Diwali, also called Deepavali or Divali, is a festival that is significant in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is known as the “Festival of Lights,” and celebrates the victory of good over evil.
In Deepak’s Diwali, it is the eve of Diwali, and Deepak’s grandmother tells him the story of the demon king Ravana who steals the god Rama’s wife, Sita. Deepak spends the first half of the story worried that Ravana is following him, but soon gets into the spirit of the holiday.
This contemporary story explains how the festival is celebrated with sparklers and lights, prayer, and feasting. It mentions the beautiful Rangoli Patterns, which Deepak and his mother create on their doorstep to welcome their visitors, and describes all kinds of delicious foods and treats. The story portrays this holiday as a wonderful family celebration. Continue reading Bilingual Book Review: Deepak’s Diwali
By guest author: Heather Leaman
Schools and families have acknowledged the importance of extending children’s learning beyond an understanding of our country to include an understanding of the world. While social studies is an ideal school subject to help children understand the world around them, many schools have significantly reduced their social studies instruction due in part to the influence of No Child Left Behind.
However, reducing class time for social studies instruction does not mean that teachers must eliminate instruction about our world for elementary school children. There are outstanding tools available for teaching social studies in tandem with instruction in reading, writing and math. In addition, there are many activities parents and families can engage in at home to supplement their children’s social studies education. Dual language books are an ideal example of a tool that can be used to introduce children to their world and to initiate deeper learning. Continue reading A Child’s Place in the World – PART II: Using dual language books to initiate social studies learning at home and at school
Not Again, Red Riding Hood!
Written by Kate Clynes
Illustrated by Louise Daykin
Review by Maureen Pugh
Not Again, Red Riding Hood! is a whimsical and entertaining book. The tale begins after Red Riding Hood’s “terrible ordeal with the wolf” and follows her on a new adventure.
When her mother asks her to bring some cookies to her father, who is working in the woods, Red Riding Hood agrees to go, despite her nervousness. As she makes her way to her father, she encounters various storybook characters (Rapunzel, Goldilocks’ three bears, and the 3 Billy Goats Gruff) and shares some of her cookies with each of them. Continue reading Bilingual Book Review: Not Again, Red Riding Hood!
By guest author: Heather Leaman
Elementary schools in the United States typically use the expanding environments approach to teach social studies in grades K-5. Under this curriculum plan, children learn about self and family in Kindergarten and first grade. In second and third grade, children learn about neighborhood and community. As they progress through the upper elementary grades, children expand their understanding of the world by learning about states and the nation.
During the past decade, the National Council for Social Studies has suggested that children’s learning be extended beyond our country to include an understanding of the world. Publishing companies have responded to this initiative by creating materials that help children learn about themselves in relation to the world. Using this worldview, students in primary grades learn about families, neighborhoods and communities globally. In upper elementary grades, children learn about their state and nation in relation to other states and other countries. This movement provides children the opportunity to connect to their world. Continue reading A Child’s Place in the World – PART I: Using dual language books as a tool for teaching social studies in elementary school
Keeping Up with Cheetah
Written by Lindsay Camp
Illustrated by Jill Newton
Review by Maureen Pugh
Cheetah loves telling jokes and Hippopotamus loves to listen and laugh at Cheetah’s jokes – even when they aren’t very funny! This synergy makes them the best of friends. There is only one problem: Hippopotamus can’t run very fast, so he can’t keep up with Cheetah.
Cheetah goes in search of a better friend, one who will appreciate his jokes and be able to run with him. Hippopotamus is so sad, and tries to practice running, but eventually realizes he will never be able to keep up with Cheetah. He decides to do what he loves best, and goes for a “good, long, deep, muddy, wallow.” Continue reading Bilingual Book Review: Keeping Up with Cheetah
Augustus and his Smile
Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
Review by Maureen Pugh
“Augustus the tiger was sad. He had lost his smile.” So begins an epic quest as Augustus searches for his lost smile. His search takes him under bushes, up to the treetops, and to the crests of the highest mountains. He finds a beetle, chirping birds, and swirling snow clouds, but no smile.
As his journey progresses, however, Augustus’ expression gradually begins to change. His pleasure becomes evident as he swims in the oceans and “splishes and splashes with shoals of tiny, shiny fish.” His long tail also begins arching in a smile to match the one on his face. Suddenly he is prancing and parading in a desert, dancing and racing in raindrops, and splashing through puddles. Then he finds it – in the reflection of a “huge silver-blue puddle” – his smile! Continue reading Bilingual Book Review: Augustus and his Smile
According to the US Census Bureau, over 20% of the US population is of “foreign stock” – that is, they are either foreign-born or have at least one parent who was born in another country. In 2000, 47 million people in the United States spoke a non-English language at home, an increase of over 45% in just one decade. The number of native-born Americans with close ties to another country is expected to grow even more over the next few decades.
While these demographic changes present many challenges for educators, they also offer terrific opportunities to teach children about our world. Rather than trying to “Americanize” the ethnic community, we should make efforts to better involve English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students and bilingual families in the classroom by encouraging them to share their language and culture. Continue reading Expand a Child’s World: Involving bilingual families and English language learners in the classroom and at home.