Guest Post by Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett, Miss Panda Chinese
October is Bilingual Child Month. It’s a time to celebrate the linguistic and cultural diversity among us. This celebration resonates with parents who are on the journey in passing on their heritage languages to their children, and those who are committed to providing their kids the opportunity to acquire a world language through bilingual or immersion schools, homeschools, and bilingual/multilingual resources. As technology draws communities closer, celebrating Bilingual Child Month is a step towards connecting cultures in our society.
Celebrate Parents and Educators
“One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.” – Frank Smith
Bilingual books are indispensable tools in nurturing an environment with more than one language at home and in schools. They serve as a medium not only for creating curiosity and language instruction but also serve as windows to different cultures and worldviews. Furthermore, bilingual books guide young readers to observe further their immediate surroundings and the diverse community close to them. The illustrations and narratives intertwined in bilingual books are like windows, offering a glimpse into the myriad cultures and traditions in the world.
What does research say?
Research suggests that bilingualism has cognitive benefits across the age spectrum, with bilingual children as young as seven months showing better adjustment to environmental changes.
Celebrate Children and Friends
What I’ve experienced with bilingual books in my family and in my classroom is way beyond language learning. What I’ve seen is when children read bilingual books they walk into a place where words become bridges, connecting them to friends, families… As they flip through the pages, they are not just decoding symbols of a new language, they are going through an experience of story, geography, and cultural boundaries.
When a child reads a story about a family tradition from a faraway land or a folktale that mirrors one from their family’s immigrant background, the words resonate, building a narrative that celebrates and connects them in both worlds. This is where they feel they can be different and they belong. Here is where their friends get to know them better, connect with them beyond the surface level, and respect them as who they are.
“Diverse children’s books are a gateway to fostering respect and empathy.”
What does research say?
A study highlighted that culturally relevant books facilitate culturally responsive teaching in bilingual classrooms, thus contributing to a more inclusive and empathetic society. I believe this also applies to all classrooms with diverse and bilingual children’s books.
Celebrate Bilingual Child Month Together with Panelist Event
The October Panel event, orchestrated by Read Your World and Miss Panda Chinese, was a lively discussion full of knowledge and insights. It was an important gathering for parents and educators interested in diverse/ bilingual children’s books, raising bilingual children, and multicultural understanding.
The theme of the event, Celebrate Bilingual Child Month Together, was unraveled through a panel discussion focused on Raising Bilingual Children and The Importance of Bilingual Children’s Books. This discourse fostered a community that cherishes the richness of diverse languages and cultures.
As the moderator of the panel discussion, I, Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett, have always been driven by the joy of nurturing bilingual children. My diverse experiences as a teacher, an author, and the founder of Miss Panda Chinese, have enriched my understanding of the bilingual landscape, which I was thrilled to bring to the discussion.
- Little Bun: A Bilingual Storybook About Feelings
- First Mandarin Sounds: An Awesome Chinese Word Book
I was joined by Dr. Ute Limacher-Riebold, a Multilingual Family Language Consultant and Intercultural Communication Trainer at Ute’s International Lounge & Academy. Dr. Limacher-Riebold’s consultations, courses, and webinars offer a bridge between theoretical research and practical solutions for international families raising multilingual and multicultural children abroad, making her a valuable voice on the panel.
- The Toolbox for Multilingual Families (replace – book link https://amzn.to/46e4KYq)
- How to Raise a Bilingual Child
Adding to the diverse expertise, Yoshito Darmon-Shimamori brought to the table his experience as a father to trilingual sons, a foreign languages teacher, and the founder of Library4Multilinguals. His authored resources are cherished guides for parents and educators aiming to make the journey of multilingual literacy an exciting and engaging endeavor.
- The Parents’ Guide to Raising Multi-literate Children (https://a.co/d/dNcg3Hc)
- In Search of the Lost Words
- My Multilingual Diary
- How to Become a Multilingual Superhero
Frances Díaz Evans, a proud Latina author, educator, and multicultural and language advocate, enriched the discussion with her insights on promoting Latino culture and Spanish language. Through her work, she endeavors to instill a love for bilingualism and cultural appreciation among young minds.
Book: Coco, la cotorra puertorriqueña
Anneke Forzani from Language Lizard, a woman-owned independent publisher providing bilingual books in over 60 languages, shared her passion for promoting multicultural education and supporting language learning, providing a glimpse into the wealth of resources available for supporting bilingual families.
- Language Lizard Living in Harmony series features: Be Kind, We Can All Be Friends, and Who Are We? This series uses colorful illustrations and simple text to explain concepts of diversity, kindness, and friendship.
- Language Lizard World of Stories collection are adventures set in diverse areas and cultures around the world. The Three Little Sun Bears and The Three Little Howlers are an adaptation of a classic folktale featuring culturally relevant animals, food, and settings.
If you missed the live discussion, we have you covered. The conversation is available for viewing on the Read Your World YouTube channel. Be sure to explore the links of each panelist shared above to further enrich your understanding and to discover the resources available for you, your classroom, or your school.
The cumulative insights shared by the panelists and the resources they offer provide a foundation for celebrating bilingual children, not just during the Bilingual Child Month, but throughout the journey of connecting all children with the community and the world.
I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Read Your World non-profit for its continued commitment to promoting diverse children’s books. The future of bilingual books is bright and holds the promise of fostering a generation of individuals proficient in more than one language and one culture with empathy.
Celebrating Bilingual Child Month is not just about respecting linguistic diversity but about building bridges of understanding in our diverse community. Through collective celebration, we transition from the ”’you and I” to “us.” So, we can stand together in promoting linguistic and cultural diversity for a richer, more inclusive place where every child and everyone belongs.