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Raising Bilingual Kids – The Benefits of Bilingual Books

Raising Bilingual Kids - Benefits of Bilingual Books

The benefits of using bilingual books when you are raising bilingual kids

Raising bilingual kids? There are a number of ways to help your kids keep up their exposure to both languages. Erika Deery is a Mexican / Australian mother and children’s book author who is raising bilingual kids.  She offers a great insight to the benefits of bilingual books, and a fantastic bilingual book giveaway at the end of the post!

Bilingual Books English & Spanish - Erika Deery

Raising Bilingual Kids

When I was pregnant with my first child, I never really thought much about bilingualism.  As a Mexican living in Australia, I always thought I would speak Spanish to my children and they would be bilingual.  After all, Spanish is the language that my husband and I speak at home.

It wasn’t until one of our friends mentioned that a lot of bilingual families have each parent talk in their native language (using the OPOL language strategy) that things started getting real for me.

When my daughter was born, I spoke to her in Spanish and my husband spoke to her in English.  Even though it was weird to even talk to a baby I could see that by six months old, she could understand everything I said.

When she was a tiny baby, I received some other very good advice from a friend who is also raising bilingual children.  This advice was to read in Spanish A LOT!

She suggested that I could get picture books from the library and I could easily translate the books even if they were in English. When you read to a baby you can just point at the image and talk about the book rather than having to repeat the words.

Recommended: Spanish for Kids Learning Series

Reading to my baby in Spanish

Reading to kids is important. I didn’t think that I would enjoy reading to my baby.

When I was reading all those picture books, I realised that reading aloud to a child didn’t only mean spitting out the text with different voices.  It means to ask questions, to point at images and to let your kid get acquainted with books and how they work, even if they chew them!

The more I read, the more I remembered how much I enjoyed drawing and making up characters and stories.

It wasn’t until I was on a plane going to Mexico with my then six month old baby that I started writing the first book in the Millie series, “Millie va al espacio/Millie goes to space”.

The very first version of my book, which I made only for my daughter, was in Spanish.  One of my friends, who is also raising a bilingual child, asked me if my book was bilingual.

This question opened a lot of possibilities and I started exploring more about bilingual books.

It turns out that bilingual books provide many advantages.

Get your free copy of the bilingual ebook for kids Millie va al espacio/Millie goes to space here.

Benefits of Bilingual Books

  • Bilingual books help foster biliteracy in kids that are growing up with two languages;
  • The same book can be read by different people in different languages;
  • Bilingual books create inclusivity, especially in migrant communities who may not speak the minority languages in their new home; and
  • Bilingual books foster multiculturalism through storytelling, expressions and illustrations.

On top of that, what I love most about bilingual books is that they bring multilingual families together.  Not all members of one family speak the same language.  It´s lovely to see a grandparent or an auntie being able to read to their grandchild in their native language even if they can´t fluently speak the language of the community.

Raising a bilingual child

As our daughter grew and talked more, English started being the strongest language with a few words in Spanish here and there.

On one hand, I had gone back to work full time and she spent more time in childcare listening to English than Spanish only with me.

I think sleep deprivation made me less strict and even though my daughter would say a few words in English I would still respond in Spanish or pass around the object she was after.

At one point I thought that I was failing but after going to playgroups with other Spanish speaking parents or even with other bilingual families, I also saw that those children spoke English because that’s the majority language.

Kids are smart, what is going to help them survive more? The majority language of course.

The importance of the Spanish language

Spanish is still very important for me, so in an attempt to increase how much Spanish my daughter speaks we tried different things at home to close the gap between English and Spanish.

Teach Kids Spanish

See our Spanish for Kids Learning Series

At one point, we attempted to change to Minority Language at Home (MLAH) but she told her dad to “stop talking weird” when he spoke Spanish to her.

A small change that started working for me was to repeat what my daughter just said in English, in Spanish, and then ask her to repeat it.  Most times she is happy to do it, except when she is tired.

I make sure that if there’s any screen time in our house that the show is in Spanish.  I’m always looking for books in Spanish and I make a big effort to play in Spanish, even though it’s hard as it stops the flow of whatever we are doing, especially if it’s a role play game.

Recommended: Using Screen time to your advantage for bilingual kids

When I had my second daughter and I went on maternity leave I started spending more time with her and my new baby, she started to speak Spanish a bit more every time.  I think we needed to simply spend more time together, and go to more Spanish playdates and keep reading more books.

It hasn’t been easy and while she is having more complex conversations in English, her Spanish is also advancing even if it’s not at the same level, but I’m confident it will get there.

My husband learned Spanish in university and he gets complemented on how well he speaks.  He attributes a lot of his success to all the music he heard when he was on an exchange in Mexico.

Now he has a trick under his sleeve.  Every time we are at home, he plays music in Spanish in the back ground.

Just the other day, our daughter started to sing the words of a Belanova song.  My husband and I looked at each other with pride.

My one year old is starting to say a few words like “mamá”, “papá” and “agua”.  It’s exciting to see those new words appear and it’s also a good reminder to make sure I stick to Spanish and I ask for replies in Spanish.

Being bilingual is “part” of our child’s identity

Sometimes, when we are having a day with not much Spanish, I have to remind myself that being bilingual is part of our child’s identity, but it’s not their entire identity. 

As parents, we also have to ensure that our children grow up with values, that they can be self-confident, that they eat healthy food and that they can socialize.  There is a lot in our plates!

If I could ever give advice to new parents starting this journey it would be this:

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

You will have about 18 years to educate your child.  While it’s important to start the bilingual journey as young as possible, it’s also never too late.

Play to your strengths

Show your kids what you love, maybe if you are good at crafts or at playing soccer, do the activities that you love in the target language and your child will absorb the language through play.

Recommended: 25 Ways to Boost the Minority Language

Use your child’s interests

If your child does puzzles, do puzzles and talk a lot about them, about the colours and the shapes you are looking for.  Go exploring and go on adventures, the idea is to have that interest and do it in the target language.

Recommended: Raising a bilingual child in the Montessori Way

Use music to your advantage

Pop music has simple lyrics with enough repetition that is easy to understand.

Recommended: Using music to help improve a language

Read, and read a lot

What kind of author would I be if I didn’t say that?

Quotes about Reading: Jacqueline Kennedy

Even if I didn’t write books, reading is exercise for your brain and what better way to introduce bilingualism than through different types of stories.

Reading will expose your child to a range of vocabulary and expressions that you will not find in everyday situations.

And my last bit of advice, if you are a parent who is raising a bilingual child, please take a deep breath, be kind to yourself and remember that you are doing great!

Bilingual Books Giveaway!

**This giveaway is now closed**
Erika Deery is giving away 2 sets of bilingual books in English and Spanish. There are 4 books in each set!

Bilingual Books English & Spanish - Erika Deery

Finish the sentence below in the comments:
– Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because…
Entries will close 4th November 2018 11.59pm CET

Raising Bilingual Kids reading Bilingual Books

Make sure you check out the Millie Books Series on the website or on Amazon. You can also get your free Ebook of her latest bilingual book HERE and follow Millie’s World on Facebook.

22 Comments

  1. Yolanda Saucedo

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because… it develops their language skills, for example learning new vocabulary, it also enhances their imagination, cultural understanding and social skills

  2. Mellie Bukovsky-Reyes

    – Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because…Seeds must be sowed for the world to flourish blooms of opportunity.

  3. Tania

    Thank you for writing this article. It’s great. Making them repeat in your language is a fantastic trick!

  4. Juliana

    – Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because, not only does it provide a great source of unique vocabulary, it shows the importance those languages hold in your family. If children are beginning to associate reading with warm, snuggling feelings in one language, now those great feelings are also being associated with their second language too!

  5. Marie

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because it enhances your bonding to your child and it shapes their brains. They will get smarter and more language competent than without reading, and they will also feel more connected to you.

  6. Mara Sammartino

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because It creates a sense of belonging, knowing they are part of a bigger community. It creates bonds with parents and family 🙂

  7. Katya

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because… train their brain to understand both languages and to picture what they are reading, which helps to avoid translation from one language to the other. We want bilingual kids to think and dream in both languages.

  8. Stephanie N

    It makes the languages relevant and fun!

  9. Frederike

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because then you show them that all of their languages are equally important. Furthermore, you stimulate their fantasy in all their languages!

  10. Sara Y.

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because it helps them improve their vocabulary and it’s a great time to bond with their parents.

  11. Sarah

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because…I can really notice a difference in how willing my son is to speak Spanish based on how much we have been reading in Spanish. Bilingual books are great because others who don’t read Spanish can share the book with him as well.

  12. Jennifer Trejo

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because it gives good snuggle time with the parents, reinforces vocabulary and sentence structure in each language, and develops a curiosity about life.

  13. Lisa Thomas

    Reading to children in both languages on a daily basis is important because hearing the languages is the way the acquire language. Reading is a vital part of anyone’s life & the sooner one starts, the better!

  14. Nancy Ramos

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because is a fun way to bond, learn and have fun in the process.
    Leer con/a los niños diario en todos los idiomas a los que están expuestos es importante porque crea lazos, aprendizaje y es una manera divertida de hacerlo.

  15. Aisling Treacy Cárdenas

    …they pick up new vocabulary and sentence structure in a fun way.

  16. Lucía

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because…it foster the reading passion of my little boy and allows me to introduce him new vocabulary.

  17. Barbara Davalos

    Reading to children in both/all their languages on a daily basis is important because it creates a bond between you and your kids (for my daughter reading is part of her routine and asks for it) and awakes interest in your kids. She’s impatient to learn to read!!

  18. …it is a fun way to learn vocabulary and to help them start thinking and using their imaginations in both languages.

  19. Hi, I totally agree, by reading in both languages, the children get used to both, in a natural, fun way.

  20. Rebeca

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because it enables them to communicate and make a stronger connection to our family that speaks Spanish (“back home”) and this in itself is enriching their lives.

  21. Monica Prado

    Reading to children in both/all of their languages on a daily basis is important because it opens the doors to different worlds and cultures and for them to embrace them and love them at the same level, makes them more empathic and curious about those “different “ worlds, makes them more human, gives them a better flexible and executive brain and at the end, open a brighter future for them!

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