This week’s Ask an Expert question was sent by Lisbeth Bosshart.

“I’d love an opportunity to Ask an Expert. I’m trying to develop a plan for teaching my children Spanish in addition to their learning English. Spanish is my second language (my parent’s first language which I learned growing up). I plan on speaking Spanish to my little ones, but I want to read to them in English so that they can develop strong early reading skills. So I guess the method would be direct speaking in Spanish, community would be English, and reading would be English. What I’m not sure about is should I speak in Spanish while reading in English or switch to English completely?”

Dear Lisbeth,

Thanks for your question! It’s great that you are focused on helping your little ones become bilingual and reading to them is a big part of making that happen.

Given the difficulty of maintaining Spanish in an English-speaking community, I would highly recommend you read to them in Spanish, at the very least during their early years. Reading in one language and discussing what is being read in another is quite challenging and will likely sabotage your efforts of keeping your relationship in Spanish. Most importantly, the strong reading skills they develop while reading with you in Spanish will transfer to English when they start reading in English.

The best thing you can offer your children is a love of reading, an appreciation for the written word and exposure to letters, sounds, symbols and the structure of books while maintaining your home language. I wish you luck with your bilingual and biliterate children. Lucky them!

Liza Sanchez
Liza Sanchez

Liza Sánchez – A bilingual education specialist who received her MA in Education at UC Berkeley and has spent many years teaching in both public and independent schools. She is the founder and Board Chair of Escuela Bilingüe Internacional (EBI) in Oakland, California. EBI is the first independent school in California to offer a Spanish-English dual language program, extending from pre-K through 8th grade. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area and is fluent in Spanish and English, speaks conversational German and can understand quite a bit of French, Portuguese and Italian. You can read her answers here.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or advice about this in the comments below. You can also leave your own question for the Experts here.

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