Bilingual is Better

“My son is enrolled in a Spanish immersion elementary school. This is our first year and he is in first grade. Prior to this, he had very limited Spanish language exposure. He is loving it and we are happy with his acceptance with the new environment and routine.

Neither my husband or I speak or read Spanish. How can we foster his learning to read Spanish at home? I go to the library and am overwhelmed with all the choices of children’s Spanish books. He will sit and read them, but I can’t really help him sound out the words, nor do I have the vocabulary to know what most of the words mean.

Any tips or suggestions for what we can do at home to supplement learning to read in Spanish? Are there certain types of books we could read together? He is an excellent reader in English and he’s super interested in learning to read Spanish. I don’t want it to become a frustrating experience for him.

Deonne”

Don’t despair Deonne!  There are lots of ways to bring reading into your home in Spanish even though you do not speak or read Spanish yourself as the parent.  Tips are as follows:

  • Seek out a baby sitter who speaks Spanish and English.  So often there are students in our communities trying to make some extra money while still in school.  Utilize the sitting services of a bilingual student instead of a monolingual one and allow this once-a-week visit be not only date night for you and your husband but also ‘tutor night’ for your son.
  • Using an online search engine, find read-aloud with CD books for kids in Spanish.  I personally know of Me & Mi Publishing company that has a CD accompanying their Spanish books so that you and your son can read and listen along to some terrific stories in the new language.
  • Ask your child’s teachers for resources.  These teachers are with your child every Monday – Friday and see what sparks his interest and his passion for Spanish as his second language.  Enlist their aid in gathering items for home use that will reinforce what is being learned in the classroom each day.  Believe me, as a teacher I would be all over helping any parent who asked for additional ideas, tips and resources to continue the educational process in the home.
  • Take your son to any and every story time that is age-appropriate for him at local libraries and recreational centers.  What?  You can’t find any?  Why not start your own then?  Build a network of families whose children are also enrolled in this immersion elementary school and have each family take a week and plan a 30 minute story time in Spanish.  Story time could include a guest reader (think local Latino news anchor, some child’s grand parent, or even a community helper such as a policeman, fireman or doctor).  It could also include an art activity that is conducted in Spanish and follows the theme of the story.

Lots of ideas start to roll around once you get brainstorming.  Hey!  That’s another idea.  I am sure you and your husband are not the only ones facing this challenge.  Have a meeting of the minds of all parents from the elementary school who are hoping to foster their children’s learning to read Spanish at home.  You will find you are not alone.

Beth Butler.-Bilingual educator of young children and strives to create better communication within our increasingly diverse society. She is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Boca Beth language learning series which has garnered various parenting awards. Ms. Butler lived in Chile and Mexico where she learned Spanish as her second language and has been bilingual and biliterate for more than 30 years. She has spent over 25 years in the field of preschool and elementary education writing and recording four bilingual music CDs in Spanish and English, as well as producing three bilingual educational movies for children. Read Beth Butler´s answers here.

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