Bilingual books are a great resource for bridging two different languages. They offer educators the chance to teach students in the school language while providing a tool for home language development and parental involvement among dual language families.
Studies have shown that supporting a child’s home language is very important for enhancing academic performance, even in cases where the language spoken at school is not the same as the language spoken at home. Children do better in school when their parents read to them, communicate, and engage in daily tasks and activities in the language in which they are most comfortable.
Below are 5 tips on how parents and educators can use bilingual books in the classroom and at home to improve literacy skills and encourage cultural appreciation.
Read bilingual books in English and show students written text in a second language.
Teachers or parents can use bilingual stories to familiarize children with other languages that use the Roman alphabet as well as languages with different letters and symbols, such as Hindi and Korean. This way, children can better understand that written speech and letters have varied forms.
Read a bilingual book in the school language and then read it in the home language.
In addition to supporting a child’s overall language development, reading at home with parents strengthens the child-parent bond and helps the parent teach about their shared culture and language. Teachers can read a book in English at school and then lend it to a child to read at home, or parents with dual-language skills can read the book in both languages.
Read culturally relevant bilingual books.
When educators read multicultural books that show texts from other parts of the world, they are imparting knowledge about various cultures, customs and traditions. This promotes a climate of cultural diversity and tolerance.
Engage children with question and answer sessions and discussion in both the school and home languages.
Bilingual books can offer the chance to discuss the same subjects in two separate languages. Teachers can initiate communication in the school’s language, while parents can do the same in their home language. Children can be sent home with a list of suggested topics for discussion to use with parents at home.
Parents or other volunteers read a bilingual book in the non-dominant language in school.
Teachers can invite parents to participate in reading bilingual books in their home language to the class. The teacher can then read the book in the school language. This enhances the bonds between the class and the family/community. It also makes parents feel welcome and provides an opportunity for them to share their expertise. If parents are unable to come to the classroom, other teachers or community members who know the home language can be invited to read in the second language.
These are just a few examples of ways that teachers and parents can use bilingual books at school and at home. The aim is to build a child’s overall literacy and communication skills, ensure that they are proud of their culture and language, and help them become understanding, multicultural citizens.
Author: Anneke Forzani is President and Founder of Language Lizard LLC, which offers bilingual books, dual-language audio products and multilingual resources to teachers, librarians and bilingual families. Language Lizard also provides free multicultural lesson plans to promote tolerance and cultural understanding in diverse classrooms.