10 Tips to Nurture a Biliterate and Bilingual Child

10 Tips to Nurture a Biliterate and Bilingual ChildThe following is part of our series on Raising Biliterate Children by guest contributor, Dr. Carlos Ulloa. In this article, he’s partnered with Laine Gen to present these helpful tips for parents.

Below are some tips to consider as you help instill in your child a lifelong love of reading, writing, listening and speaking in two languages. 

  1. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL

If you want to develop a bilingual and biliterate child, you must be a strong and consistent example in the home. When you embrace the gift of speaking, listening, reading and writing in two languages, you model a family value that can be passed on for generations. Accept it, you are your child’s first teacher! Do not relinquish this important responsibility to anyone.  But don’t feel like you have to speak perfectly. All language learners make mistakes, and getting corrected is one way we learn. You are modeling effort, not perfection. 

  1. CALL HOME

If you can’t make trips to visit abuelita and abuelito, call them on the phone or Skype with them weekly.  Nothing is sadder to a Spanish-speaking grandparent or relative than when children cannot communicate with family because of language barriers. Start with basic greetings. Plan out a few phrases and teach them to your children each time you call. Ask your family not to switch to English at the slightest misunderstanding (if they speak English). Again, emphasize and encourage effort on the part of your children and how their attempts to communicate are a gift and sign of respect to their elders. 

  1. MAKE THE TIME TO READ   

Make time to read with your child every day. There is nothing like escaping into a great story together! Find your child’s inner passion and then look for books, magazines, and websites related to his or her favorite topic. One child I knew was a reluctant reader in Spanish (his second language) until his mother found a Minecraft handbook in Spanish. Suddenly, he couldn’t wait to read each day.

While reading together, consciously ask questions aloud about the author, story setting, characters or plot. Ask your child to predict what will happen next and then see if the predictions are correct. This is what great readers do in their heads, and you can model it for your child. Put yourself into the book and honor your child’s responses.

There are a growing number of bilingual books written in English and Spanish. Your local library and your child’s school library can help you find Pura Belpré Award-winning books. The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. Established in 1996, the award is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. For a list of current award and honor books, check out the Pura Belpré home page at http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal. 

  1. MAKE TIME TO WRITE

A simple and fun pre-writing activity is to talk about new and familiar words you see when you are walking, driving, or riding the bus. When encountering new words, be curious about them. Model using a dictionary and help your child figure out meanings by breaking the word into smaller parts.

Writing is a process. Start small: Craft your grocery shopping list with your child and alternate languages each week. Older, second-language learners love to label all the furniture in the house. Write down a favorite family recipe together. Label captions on the back of your family photos (who, what and where) or create a photo album together online or through social media. Card making is also a wonderful and purposeful form of reading and writing, and don’t forget thank you notes to family members or classmates who give birthday or holiday gifts. Expand from letter writing to recording family stories together. 

  1.  COOK WITH YOUR CHILD

Cooking together requires searching for a recipe (using alphabetization skills), reading it together, reviewing the vocabulary as you find the ingredients and once again as you combine them. This is hands-on language learning at its finest. You can even write a review of the dish after you eat! 

  1. TAKE THE TIME TO LISTEN TO BOOKS AND MUSIC

When you are at home or in the car, listen to songs in both languages. Check out CDs by José Luis Orozco, Suni Paz, or Juan Sánchez from your library or use online resources like Pandora’s Música infantil station. Talk about the lyrics. What is the singer trying to say? Audiobooks in English and Spanish are also a wonderful way to improve your child’s listening comprehension in the car. 

  1. HOST A WEEKLY GAME NIGHT

First, eat dinner together as a family. This can be a homemade meal or take-out, but sit together at the table and talk about the vocabulary of the food you are eating. Turn off the television and all devices. Talk about the day’s events.  Share a rose/rosa and a thorn/espina. The rose/rosa  is a wonderful moment in the day and a thorn/espina is an event in the day that needs some helpful advice from the family. Then, after dinner, play a game together. Look for games like Candy Land, Uno, or Battleship that have simple vocabulary based on numbers and colors, which can be played easily in different languages. Select games your child enjoys playing. 

  1.  EMBRACE (BUT LIMIT) TECHNOLOGY

Use technology to enhance learning only after kids have had time to do chores, play outdoors, and exercise their imaginations. Ditch the cable. Movies can be checked out from the library and watched on the weekend. Set the captions to a different language while you watch. If your child wants some computer time, there are great eBook resources like Bookflix, a Scholastic website requiring a subscription but available for free for patrons of California libraries. Bookflix allows you to access fiction and nonfiction books paired on a topic. Some pairs are available in both English and Spanish. All of these stories are animated, narrated by native speakers, and feature words that change color as they are read aloud (like in karaoke). Also, reluctant readers are sometimes much more motivated to read if they can do it on a tablet rather than a traditional book. But make sure all electronics are off at least an hour before bedtime so you can relax together with a bedtime story from a real book or your imagination. 

  1. “FRIEND” YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY, SCHOOL LIBRARY, INDEPENDENTLY-OWNED BOOKSTORE

Librarians are an underutilized resource. They live to help you find unusual items. Most libraries have inter-library loan programs, where you can borrow materials from other sources and they are sent right to your local branch for you to pick up. If the library doesn’t have what you are looking for, put in a purchase request. Ask your branch manager to consider allocating more resources to books, videos, CDs, and story time in Spanish or other languages. And finally, when you purchase books, check your local independent bookstore to see if they can order for you. Some indie bookstores will give you a discount if you register your book club, so create one and start saving! 

  1. INVEST IN A QUALITY DUAL IMMERSION SCHOOL COMMUNITY

Language learning happens most effectively when you are in a community, surrounded by people who speak that language. In fact, children need exposure to another language for about a third of their waking hours in order to acquire it naturally. More and more school districts are creating free public charter schools that offer your child the chance to become part of a bilingual community from a very young age. New programs require a lot of time investment on the part of parents to create enrichment opportunities, but your efforts will pay off in the long run as you give your child the life-long gift of being able to read, write, speak and listen in two languages.

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Dr. Ulloa grew up speaking Spanish with his mother and English with his father. Dr. Ulloa has 25 years of experience as an elementary teacher, director of curriculum and instruction, Descubriendo la Lectura/Reading Recovery teacher, parent involvement specialist and dual immersion principal. He currently serves as a commissioner on the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), an advisory board to the California State Board of Education. Ulloa earned his B.A. at San Diego State University in Liberal Studies with a Spanish Bilingual Emphasis, masters in Education from Harvard University and doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Ulloa can be contacted at CarlosUlloaJr@gmail.com or connect with him on Twitter: @DrCarlosUlloaJr.

Laine Gen grew up in a monolingual household but became trilingual as an adult by living and teaching in France and Mexico.  She holds a B.A. in French and a masters in teaching English to speakers of other languages.  She married a Chinese American and has picked up some Cantonese along the way from her in-laws.  Her two children attend Loma Vista Immersion Academy in Petaluma, California and are growing up bilingual in English and Spanish.  She can be reached at lgen@petk12.org.

Lunchtime Author Google Hangout with Author/Illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh

Award-winning author and illlustrator Duncan Tonatiuh completes our 2015 L4LL Lunchtime Author Google Hangout series. Duncan shows us his forthcoming book Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras which is being released by Abrams in September.

I have read every book Duncan has written and illustrated, in part because his books, while marketed as children’s literature, deal with tough topics such as immigration, social justice, and equality. When I asked him about delving head first into these hot topics, he reveals it has as much to do with his passion for these themes as his younger readers who deserve more credit as sophisticated readers. His unique choice of subject matter is also being rewarded in the form of awards such as the forthcoming 2015 Américas Award which he will be sharing with his colleague Margarita Engle. Click here to read the blog post and view our earlier Author Lunchtime Google Hangout with Margarita.  Duncan tells us that the recognition is important because it gives his books visibility with librarians, teachers, and book stores who are looking for additions which maximize the exposure to kids.

This point connects with how Duncan has always been published by Abrams, a mainstream publishing house. While an exception among writers from diverse backgrounds who often times publish in small presses or self-publish, Duncan has been able to navigate the tricky politics of publishing, his talent and uniqueness being rewarded with more book deals, prizes, which perhaps will create opportunities for other diverse authors.

Our “Lunchtime Author Google Hangout” series is part of our 2015 Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL) Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program.

Click on the video for food for thought and inspiration for any reader, writer, or student!

El autor/ilustrador galardonado Duncan Tonatiuh termina nuestra serie de conversaciones en Google Hangout con autores. Duncan compartió sus planes como un nuevo libro Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras que se publica en septiembre cuando también recibe un “Premio Américas” que comparte con su colega Margarita Engle. Detalla su relación de “vai-ven” con México donde nació y actualmente vive y los Estados Unidos donde hizo su carrera académica y profesional, además de su compromiso de seguir explorando temas candentes como la inmigración, la justicia social y la igualdad para su público de lectores jóvenes.

Nuestra serie de “Google Hangouts a la hora del almuerzo con autores” forma parte de nuestro L4LL Programa de lectura de verano para jóvenes latinos de 2015.

¡Lector, escritor o estudiante: click en el video para inspirarse con las palabras de Duncan!

Latinos over-index on YouTube. Rather than just search and play music or beauty videos, we hope Hispanics also turn to this outlet for educational purposes. Click to navigate to our Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL) YouTube channel where we’re curating a video library of Latino children’s literature, including book video trailers and our Google Hangouts with authors.

Lunchtime Author Google Hangout with René Colato Laínez

 

Award-winning author René Colato Laínez. Courtesy: Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL)

Award-winning author René Colato Laínez. Courtesy: Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL)

Award winner René Colato Laínez continues our L4LL Lunchtime Author Google Hangout series. René shares all kinds of chisme on his forthcoming book Vámonos/Let’s Go which is illustrated by his friend Joe Cepeda and is being released on July 30th. A winner of various awards, including recognitions by the American Library Association (ALA), he is most proud of receiving a Premio Actitud.

Premios what? René educated me by telling me that it’s an award presented by La Prensa de Los Ángeles to Salvadorans whose work is making a positive impact and helping to change the negative stereotypes of poverty, gangs, and violence of El Salvador.

René was both in this Central American nation and immigrated as a young child to America. This led to one more important conversation: immigration. Like his peers, his children’s literature books are universal. But René unapologetically declares his mission as writing about the immigration experience specifically for immigrant children.

Our “Lunchtime Author Google Hangout” series is part of our 2015 Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL) Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program.

Click on the video for food for thought and inspiration for any reader, writer, or student!

El autor galardonado René Colato Laínez continúa nuestra serie de conversaciones en Google Hangout con autores. René compartió sus planes: un nuevo libro Vámonos/Let’s Go ilustrado por su amigo Joe Cepeda que se publica el 30 de julio. Premiado por muchas organizaciones como la Asociación de Bibliotecas de América (ALA), se jacta de recibir el Premio Actitud por su trabajo para adelantar la comunidad y mejorar la imagen de los Salvadoreños. De niño Réne inmigró a los Estados Unidos. Por eso se ha comprometido a escribir del tema de la inmigración para un público de niños inmigrantes.

Nuestra serie de “Google Hangouts a la hora del almuerzo con autores” forma parte de nuestro L4LL Programa de lectura de verano para jóvenes latinos de 2015.

¡Lector, escritor o estudiante: click en el video para inspirarse con las palabras de René!

Latinos over-index on YouTube. Rather than just search and play music or beauty videos, we hope Hispanics also turn to this outlet for educational purposes. Click to navigate to our Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL) YouTube channel where we’re curating a video library of Latino children’s literature, including book video trailers and our Google Hangouts with authors.

A Guide to Translanguaging in Latino/a Literature for Educators PreK-12

Guide to Latino Literature

We’re so pleased to share with you this valuable free resource for both parents and educators. Created by Vanessa Pérez Rosario, Ph.D., a professor of Latino Studies with a focus on literature and education. Click here to download Translanguaging in Latino/a Literature: A Guide for Educators.

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Translanguaging in Latino/a Literature: A Guide for Educators
by Vanessa Pérez

In an interview, writer Esmeralda Santiago reflects on her choice to become a writer. She remembers looking for books that she could identify as a young woman who had migrated from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn as a teenager and recalls, “there were no books about Puerto Rican girls in Brooklyn. I think that I was driven to be a writer because I didn’t exist in the literature, and therefore didn’t exist in the culture. I simply wasn’t there.”

While today there are many wonderful works of literature that reflect the Latino/a experience and are appropriate for very young children through high school, these books often don’t make it into our curricula or our classrooms. This Latino/a Literature Guide offers teachers culturally sustaining literature suggestions, deepens our understanding of bilingualism and the language practices of Latino/a bilinguals, which is enriching and empowering for the bilingual reader. The Guide was created in the context of the City University of New York – New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals (CUNY NYSIEB) and is aligned with our core principals, to develop a multilingual ecology in schools and to see bilingualism as a resource.

This Guide offers analysis of language use in 32 works of Latino/a literature that are appropriate for Grades PreK-12, analyzing seventeen books for Grades PreK-6 and fifteen books for Grades 7-12. The analysis of each book includes lexile level, themes, author biography and website, a list of supplemental resources, a summary of the book, and an analysis of the way the author uses translanguaging, the flexible use of linguistic resources in literature. Analyzing the way that authors translanguage, or flexibly use Spanish and English in their texts, helps us to explore our bilingualism and bicultural identities leading to a deeper understanding of bilingualism. The Guide encourages literacy development through the use of culturally relevant texts and it deepens our understanding of bilingualism and the language practices of Latino/as.

How might teachers use this Guide in the classroom? Some of our schools have already started using the Guide and this is how they are doing it. Schools are purchasing the books included here for independent reading classroom libraries. Some schools are replacing the books recommended by purchased curricula for the books recommended here because they are more culturally sustaining and relevant to the children’s lives. In the Guide, non-fiction reading is introduced along with the literary texts in the form of the author’s biographies. In the additional resources section for each book you can often find links to author interviews and literary analysis of the text, helping teachers meet the non-fiction reading requirements. The books included here can serve as models for assignments where students are asked to include words from their home language in their own poetry or narrative writing. Finally, one elementary school has decided to use the book América is her name by Luis Rodríguez (included in the Guide) to introduce students to the poetry unit. In the story, América, a young Mixteca girl migrates to Chicago and she is having a hard time fitting in. When her teacher Mr. Aponte encourages her to write and recite poetry in English and in Spanish or whatever language she feels most comfortable with, she is able to make sense of the world around her and find a sense of home through poetry.

I invite you to download your free copy here.