Bilingual is Better

Reading in Spanish

How do you enforce bedtime for a 6-year-old who’s begging you to let her read two more pages? You don’t. Or, at least, I don’t. Vanessa gets so excited about what she’s reading that I have a really hard time telling her she has to stop. I mean, it’s not like she’s staying up way past her bedtime. I’m just allowing her to stay up an extra half an hour or so.

And, you know what? I’m totally fine with that.

I’ve had a love affair with books ever since I can remember. First, in Spanish. Then, as I became bilingual, in English. Now, it depends on the mood I’m in. (Currently in my Kindle: “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green and “Óscar y las mujeres” by Santiago Roncagliolo.) So nothing makes me happier than seeing my daughter get lost in books the same way I’ve always done — especially because she reads a fair share in Spanish which, as we all know, is one of the best ways to expose bilingual children to the minority language.

But how did I get so lucky? Truth is, luck has nothing to do with it. I’ve been doing some very specific things the last six years that I’m completely convinced have helped make Vanessa — and her little brother Santiago — a lover of books. Allow me to share them with you:

Reading to them from day one. I know everyone tells you it’s a good idea to do it, but I can honestly say this is the biggest reason why my kids love books so much. Even though many of the baby books I got when Vanessa was little were in English, I just translated the simple text or made up my own few lines in Spanish. I also made it a point to read the same 2 or 3 books over and over again. Repetition allows kids to better remember new words and thus expand their vocabulary.

Even though Vanessa learned how to read last year in Kindergarten, she still loves it when I read to her — and I do too. Continue to show your kids your own love of books by reading to them even after they learn how to do it on their own.

Filling our house with books. I think the only room in our house without books is the dining room. Everywhere else, there they are — including the bathroom where pretty much everyone in our family does at least some of their reading. The point is to  make books accessible, so they’re an option close at hand at all times. I grew up in a house filled with books and I know it definitely helped grow my love of books.

Visiting the library often. I’ve been taking Vanessa to our local library ever since she was able to sit up. At first, we’d go for storytime — even though it was in English. As she got a little bit bigger, I’d let her choose a few books to check out and I got her used to the process and the services offered at a public library. The idea has always been to surround her with books and to make them a regular part of her life. She recently got her own library card and she thought it was the coolest thing ever!

Leading by example. Without a doubt, I know I became a bookworm because of the example I got at home. When I close my eyes and think of my Dad, it’s impossible not to picture him reading a book or the newspaper. I don’t read as much as I used to pre-kids, but I’ve been trying to get back to reading a lot more lately. I tell Vanessa reading is, by far, one of my favorite pastimes, but we all know that showing is better than telling. As she gets older, I think this will be of even more importance.

Then again, between you and I, I think she’s already hooked for life — and I couldn’t be happier!

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