Kathryn HowesIt’s a great joy and honour to have Katey Howes join my blog as a guest today! Katey is a mom of three, children’s author and literacy advocate who blogs about raising kids who love to read at Kateywrites. Katey is a native English speaker who studied in Madrid, and now makes New Jersey her home base for family adventures around the world. You can find Katey on Instagram @kidlitlove and on Twitter @kateywrites, or use the hashtag #RaisingReaders to find and share tips, ideas and special moments related to reading with children. Katey’s first picture book, Grandmother Thorn, is set in rural Japan. It is scheduled for release in Spring 2017 from Ripple Grove Press. Enjoy Katie’s post!


Reading with the multicultural child

The more a child is exposed to books, the more likely he or she is to become an avid reader.

Studies spanning 27 countries and several decades show that having books in the home when children are young correlates with completion of college.

Children who are read to show improved verbal and written language skills. People who read fiction have been shown to have greater empathy. Any way you look at it, it’s clear that books help to build smart, strong, sympathetic children.

In a multilingual or multicultural household, they can play an even bigger role. Books can serve as a bridge to help explain difficult vocabulary, concepts and traditions. They offer visual and context clues that may be hard to find in day-to-day life. Books provide concrete links between written and spoken language, and show the similarities (and differences!) between different written languages.

Beyond those very important basics, books offer a way to connect person-to-person through the read-aloud.
When a parent, grandparent, cousin, baby-sitter, nanny, au pair, or friend reads aloud with a child, it reinforces a number of things.

• Reading is fun.
• Reading is valued.
Different voices read different ways.
• It’s okay to bring your own perspective to a book – books are subjective experiences.
• The caregiver wants to spend time with the child, one-on-one.

Reading aloud together improves vocabulary skills, fluency, and reasoning. And studies show these effects are taking place in the brain even before the child is verbal. Reading aloud to very young children, even babies, helps them develop the mental connections for processing and creating spoken language. Maybe you knew that. But did you also know that reading aloud together improves emotional bonding and self-confidence in children? It’s true!

The more members of your family/community who read with your child, the better! The child will not only feel loved and form strong attachments, but he or she will build language and literacy skills, learn to ask and answer questions, and make connections between written and spoken languages.

Each member of your child’s extended family/caregiver network can contribute to the child’s emotional, educational, and cultural development through the read-together. Here are just a few ways to get started:

1. Read a simple board book written in the child’s majority language several times, so that the child is familiar with the words. Then go back through and name different items in the pictures/story in a minority language.

2. Read a rhyming book aloud in any language. Ask the child to help you think of more words that rhyme. You may be surprised that he/she comes up with words in multiple languages!

3. Read fairy tales and folk tales from various traditions in either majority or minority language. Talk about cultural significance of these books, or just share simple messages, like “Grandma loved this story when she was little!”

4. Get copies of the same book in multiple languages. Read them one after the other, or compare page-by-page.

5. Find books that show events and places significant to your family and culture. Look at the pictures together and talk about them. Encourage the child to ask questions of caregivers, using the book as a starting point.

6. While reading a familiar book, replace a word with an incorrect/silly/opposite word or a word from an alternate language. Children delight in catching your “mistake” and correcting you!

7. Look for books that feature multilingual and/or multicultural families and include these in your collection. Children love to “see themselves” in story.

Reading with the multicultural child

One of my favorites is Yoko Writes Her Name by Rosemary Wells.

Encourage grandparents, extended family, caregivers and friends to read aloud with your multilingual child – in any language. Let them choose from the books you have at home and ask them to bring their favorites.

There is no wrong way to read together! The key is that the caregiver and child are exploring together, deepening their emotional bond while learning and having fun.

With repetition of this practice, the child becomes more attached to both the caregiver and the experience of reading – in any language.


Thank you so much, Katey! Don’t you just love all the benefits reading brings with it! (oh, and I LOVE the tip #6 – I will definitely be “misreading” with my grandchild!)

May the peace and power be with you.

Yours,
Rita

© Rita Rosenback 2017


Bringing up a Bilingual Child by Rita RosenbackNever miss a post! Sign up to the Multilingual Parenting newsletter and I will send you a recap of the week’s posts every Sunday. Every second week you will receive a more extensive issue with links to research articles and interesting posts from other writers, as well as handy tips and ideas!
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Do you have a specific question? You can send it to our team of Family Language Coaches and we will reply in a Q&A (questions are answered in order of arrival).
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