Reading in Two Languages
My son is growing up in a bilingual household, but he’s already chosen his dominant language – English. This doesn’t surprise me, given that the community surrounding him speaks English. Therefore, I have to work harder to get him to engage in Spanish. It takes dedication, patience, and persistence on my part, but he already knows many Spanish words. If we’re reading a Spanish book and he sees a picture of a firetruck and says, “firetruck” (currently his favorite word), I simply repeat it in Spanish to reinforce the language. My goal is to develop his passion for reading, in both English and Spanish. To achieve this goal, we’ve started reading our son bilingual books.
Advantages of Bilingual Books
We actually have many bilingual books in our house, some of which are children’s books. One of my passions is bilingual education, so it’s important for my son to see that Mom prefers to read in one language and Dad prefers to read in another. I’ve discovered plenty of English-Spanish bilingual books that you can choose from to read to your child in both languages. The advantage of these books is that each parent can read the same book in their own language.
Our Current Favorite Bilingual Books
Spanish-English Picture Dictionary, by Catherine Bruzzone and Louise Millar
My son loves this book because of all the bright pictures. We often sit and look at the pictures while adding more words to his bilingual vocabulary.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff / Los Tres Chivitos, retold by Carol Ottolenghi
This classic story is brightly illustrated and written in large, bilingual font for younger children.
Perro Grande…Perro Pequeño / Big Dog…Little Dog, by P.D. Eastman
This was one of my favorite literary characters as a child, and sharing these bilingual books with my son has been so much fun!
Are you my Mother? / ¿Eres tú mi mamá? by P.D. Eastman
We love this book because there are so many characters that the bird meets while on a quest to find his mom. To make it engaging, I make all the sounds of the animals and vehicles as the bird is trying to find his mom.
Building the Foundation
Regardless of which language(s) your child is learning, reading to him/her is fundamental. It’s the foundation for early language and literacy development, and reading books together is a great method to help your child expand their vocabulary. It’s also a fun way to introduce the traditions and customs of other cultures and explore the history of your family’s culture. Just remember to make reading fun and engaging, especially when attempting to read bilingual books.
As Dr. Seuss says, “The more that you read, the more you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go.”