When I first started writing this blog, I posted a number of reviews of books that we were reading to our son. I had envisaged this being a regular thing, perhaps every couple of weeks or so.
I soon stopped because, although we have a lot of books in both Portuguese and English, we accidentally developed a core of about 15 books or so that we would read again and again. These were books that we as parents lie, but also that Mr. T, our son, also liked.
It is no secret how important reading aloud to your children is. We have been reading to Mr. T ever since he was born and it is one of the best parts of the day. Even without the educational benefits that come with reading to our son I would be loath to give up this exercise. Recently, however, we have been seeing some of the fruits of our pleasurable labour in his language as well as just finding the time to bond.
Reading to himself
One of the joys of the last few weeks has been to see our son getting a book out from under the bed and reading it. Obviously, at 2 and a half he can’t actually read, but he does do a good impression of it. He sits up in bed with his legs crossed and opens the book at the first page. He then babbles away to himself about what he can see in the picture before turning the page and doing the same thing again.
I love to see this. Apart from it being funny to watch it also means, hopefully, that we are well on the way to encouraging Mr. T to see books as a natural thing to use in his free time, and not just something that has to be picked up because you are told to.
He has learnt to recognise the letter ‘T’ and he can even write it now thanks his vovô showing him how to do it on a blackboard. Whenever he sees the letter ‘T’ he shouts it out with wild abandon and repeats it just to make sure that we saw it as well. He has started to recognise some of the other letters in his name as well as the letter ‘A’.
We are not trying to push him to read letters as I know there are grave doubts about trying to do this at such a young age. However, he is very interested in letters so we encourage him to do it so long as he wants to.
One of the main reasons to read aloud to a child is to help their language learning, and this is perhaps especially important for a bilingual child as it is a great opportunity to provide further exposure in a minority language. One of the most favorite books in our house is ‘The Gruffalo‘. It is so beloved by all of us that we have been reading since day 1.
A couple of weeks ago, as my wife was reading it to him before bedtime, he started to say some of the words at the same time as my wife. Over the next couple of days we encouraged him to do this more and now he can say practically all of the end rhyme words throughout the story. He has also started to do this with other books that he has heard practically all his life.
At the moment he only really uses these words when the book is being read, not in his every day life. But I am sure that this shows he is aware of more words than he is using and that pretty soon he is going to be ready to start producing even more vocabulary.
I am aware of some disagreements over how to teach bilingual children to read. Some people say you should teach them to read one language at a time, others that you can teach both together. I’d love to hear people’s experiences in the comments sections below.
There is of course some wonderful material out there on the internet about why parents should read to their kids and how to go about it. 3 blogs that I have read and found particularly motivating are:
Bilingual Children: Why reading is important from multilingualparenting.com
My Favorite Way to Get a Bilingual Child Reading More in the Minority Language from bilingualmonkeys.com
Teaching a Multilingual Child to Read and Write from expatchild.com