As the mother of two bilingual children I am often asked what language we speak at home, how they are coping at school, and what about reading? The truth is we have a wide range of English and French books at home but also bilingual books.
My youngest child is only three, so he can’t read yet, but I make sure that we read to him every night and he seems to particularly enjoy the bilingual books too!
My eldest is at school and reads beautifully in English. Just as with his sibling I have read to him in French since when he was little, and now that he has mastered reading in English he is keen to read French books on his own. Bilingual books help him a lot because if he gets stuck he can just look at the English version. I am also pretty sure it does help him remember the words when he works it out by himself rather than me telling him.
So, I wanted to find out what the benefits are of reading bilingual children's books. Here's what I found out...
For a start, reading bilingual books encourages parents to read in their native language. If as a parent you do not completely master the language spoken where you live, it is a great way to show your children the diversity of your native language and show them that it is fun. It also helps children feel connected to their family’s culture and traditions.
Reading bilingual books helps build vocabulary in both languages and helps children to translate the words in the other language without their parents' help. This is a great cognitive exercise. It can also help them build up their academic vocabulary as opposed to the everyday language spoken at home.
I like the fact that bilingual books help children feel included. Reading bilingual stories about bilingual children is definitely a winner in our house; it makes my children feel pretty special.
As a worried parent, I did do some research about bilingual children and the issues they could face at school, as I often heard about children struggling at school. But it turns out that 'being bilingual' does not slow down or confuse children when it comes to reading. In fact, bilingual children are good readers and even show some advantages over their monolingual peers.
I think the most important to remember is that reading books is fun and that it can only help busy bilingual’s brains!