Why Bilingual Read Alouds can be a savior when it comes to maintaining your bilingual child’s home language. We all like to hear that kids are like sponges, especially when it comes to learning a second or third language, right?
Well…think again, unfortunately, this is not true, as every parent trying to raise kids in more than one language will tell you, it actually takes quite a bit of effort, especially once the kids start to attend a creche, pre-school, or school with a majority language different to the home language. Suddenly, that home language your kids were so amazingly fluent in, starts to crack. But relax, it happens in the best of bilingual families 🤪 and you have done nothing wrong.
This is where Bilingual Read Alouds and our TimTimTom – Bilingual, Personalized Books can really make a difference.
Why Bilingual Read Alouds?
Let’s first take a step back, for kids growing up with more than one language, bilingual is normal. There is nothing special about it. It’s a fact that more than 50% of the world’s population speaks more than one language, so by world standards bilingual is normal.
However, when these bilingual kids start more formal education, usually the language taught in school takes over. Your child might even refuse to speak the home language. Bilingual Read Alouds can bring the child back to loving his or her home language, especially if it happens in the right setting.
Here is the story of a Latino couple in the US, let’s call them Marta and Rodrigo. Rodrigo’s Spanish might not be perfect, but as a couple, they decide that they want their kids to have a good command of the Spanish language. At home, they try to speak as much Spanish as possible with baby, Carolina.
Forward a few years, Carolina is 4 and she speaks both languages, English and Spanish equally well. She mixes the languages sometimes, but she feels comfortable moving from one language to the other with ease. She knows exactly with whom she can or cannot use her languages. Carolina is ready to start pre-school. She now spends a large part of her day in an English-only environment.
And this is where it happens, only a few weeks into the fall term, Carolina refuses to answer in Spanish. She understands everything Marta says to her, but she only answers in Spanish.
Does this sound familiar?
We hear the above story repeated over and over again, the age of the child might be older or younger, the mix of languages might be completely different, but the situation and the parental frustration that comes with it is exactly the same.
How can Bilingual Read Alouds help?
If you force the kids to speak a language they will dislike it, but at the same time, you need to give them as much exposure to the language as possible. It is a fine balancing act, but hey you are a parent “balancing” is your middle name.
Bilingual Read Alouds can entice the kids in a fun, non-judgmental manner to want to use their not so strong language.
This is why our bilingual, personalized books can be a great aid. The child sees him or herself as the main character and therefore creates an immediate connection to the story.
When we first started we only thought of writing bilingual books and making any combination of two languages possible. However, then we found this amazing event called Multicultural Children’s Book Day and realized the need to have all children represented in stories. It was our little “Aha” moment. Why not also personalize the main character, so your child finds him or herself in the book in the name, the appearance, and the two languages the child uses at home. And this is how TimTimTom – bilingual, personalized books was born
The response from parents has been amazing. We could not be happier when we hear from kids and parents like Antonio S., who says “Finally my son has asked me to read a book in Portuguese to him and the best part is it is a book about Soccer/Football, my Brazilian heart could not be happier.”
Or Xiao Wen Zhang “my daughter is curious about Chinese characters and thanks to the Underwater Adventure has noticed how the sentences are formed differently in Chinese as she sees the English and Chinese side by side. Your book is not only a language aid, but we have had amazing bonding and discussions finding all the little details in the illustrations.”
How to make the most out of Bilingual Read Alouds:
- Have bilingual books readily available. Find topics the kids enjoy or are currently covering in school.
- Let the child choose the book he/she wants to read and the language she/he wants to read the story in. If your child always chooses the same language, ask for permission to read it in the other language. Say that you miss it so much.
- Adjust your reading to the age of the child. The younger the child is the more you are not reading every word, but describing the illustrations or asking an open-ended question, so you have a discussion about the book. The older the child, the more important it is to read the actual words of the book in order for your child to learn new vocabulary.
- Ask questions! Ask loads of questions and use the book as an excuse to speak the child’s not-so-strong language.
- Vocabulary quiz…check if your child knows a word in the other language and use the text to help your child find the word in both languages. Even if your child cannot read, they are intrigued by letters and characters.
- Above all have fun! Cuddle up and enjoy this moment together!
Happy Bilingual Read Alouds 🤪
For the fifth year, TimTimTom – Bilingual, Personalized Books joins us again as a sponsor of MCBD. TimTimTom was started by two multilingual moms Gaby (Peruvian/German) and Kat (Belgian) crazy about languages and children’s books.
They have Gaby’s then 3-year old’s blunt judgment of their horrible on-the-fly-translation skills to thank for the motivation to create TimTimTom Books. TimTimTom’s goal is to motivate kids to enjoy reading, even in their not so strong language.
The original idea for TimTimTom – Bilingual Personalised Books was to help parents trying to raise bilingual kids no matter what combination of languages they had at home. However, as they were working on their first story, they noticed that many kids were not being represented in books and set their goals to change this. Every child should have the chance to become the hero of a story.
TimTimTom – Bilingual Personalized Books, because reading in two languages is twice the fun!
With three stories, 10 languages, and over 100 personalization possibilities to choose from, your child becomes the hero of any TimTimTom story, not only by name and appearance but also in the language(s) he/she speaks or is learning in school.
TimTimTom will very soon launch their multilingual activity books, fun activities in the two languages your children use at home.