Helping children develop their American and native cultural identities together.

Archive for August, 2009

Shared from Sinews: How can I convince my husband to speak to our son in his native language?

Posted by bububooks on August 31, 2009

We at bububooks wanted to share some insight into raising bilingual children, debunk myths and offer tips.  This article comes from http://www.bilingualreaders.com.

My husband is Portuguese, but we live in Spain. My husband says that it feels unnatural for him to speak to our seven month old son Marco in Portuguese, although he plans to speak Portuguese to him when he is old enough to speak back. I’m always telling my husband it will be too late by then. How can I convince him to speak to our son in Portuguese now? What are the technical reasons why it is so important for Marco to hear both languages from the beginning?
–María, Bilbao, Spain

Dear María:

When you feel comfortable speaking to your child in one language, it can be difficult to switch gears and speak to him in another language. Forcing this type of change can even cause emotional difficulties, since it is already hard enough to learn to be a parent, establish emotional ties with your child, etc. This is especially true when your baby’s communication skills are still rudimentary. I would encourage you not to worry too much because IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE.

At this point it seems like I support your husband’s decision, right? The truth is I’m not radically opposed to him waiting until your son is older to speak to him in his native language or even never speaking to him in Portuguese at all if that would somehow damage his relationship with his child. BUT…there would have to be a very good reason for him not to do so.

The following is a list of common myths which are NOT good reasons for your husband to avoid speaking to your son in his native language:

Myth 1: Portuguese would not be useful for my child, since it’s not as “prestigious” as languages such as English, German or French. Portuguese and its variants are spoken by millions of people worldwide (Brazil, Africa, etc.), and sometimes learning a less “popular” language can provide unexpected academic and career advantages for your child. Who knows if Brazil, like China, may one day become an important trade location for multinational companies?

Myth 2: If my child learns both Spanish and Portuguese at the same time, this choice may prevent him from learning other important world languages like English. On the contrary, speaking two languages from the time he is small will help your child learn a third language later in life.

Myth 3: All of my efforts to communicate with my son are in vain until he learns to speak. If that were the case, why should we speak to our children in any language if they don’t understand us?

I would like to help you both make the best possible decision for your family by giving you a few reasons why your son would benefit from hearing both languages as soon as possible:

Language development begins when the fetus begins to hear. Babies can hear you from the very beginning, even when they’re in their mother’s womb. This process is passive at first, then it becomes more active as the child grows.
A four month old baby is perfectly capable of distinguishing between the sounds and musicality of both his languages and reacts in a different way to each one.
Four month olds are also able to learn (by imitating) the movements their parents’ mouths make when speaking with them. According to recent studies, they can even distinguish between facial movements of those who are speaking with them when presented with visual recordings with no sound.
When a baby begins to babble, he is producing only those sounds included in the phonetic repertoire of the languages he hears at home. He generally produces the easiest sounds first and the more complicated ones later.
One of the first steps in learning a language is to distinguish its musicality and phonetics. It has also been demonstrated that the earlier a child learns a second language, the easier it will be for him to speak without a foreign accent in that language.

Even if these arguments do convince your husband, he may still need some help deciding how to make the transition from one language to another. Here are few suggestions:

A visit from a Portuguese family member or a vacation in Portugal would be a great help. When we hear others around us speaking in a language, it feels more natural for us to speak to our child in that language. In this context, the change may not feel as forced.
It may be easier to make this transition when your husband is alone with your son in a relaxed environment such as bath time, when telling him a bedtime story or singing him a lullaby. The presence of a person he is not used to speaking Portuguese around may make the transition more uncomfortable or artificial.
Sometimes reading a book in the native language can be a more practical first step. In this way your husband would only have to read what is written. The text could also inspire him to add his own comments or discuss the story with your son. Babies as young as nine months old already love to help turn the pages and look at the illustrations. Reading bilingual books is especially helpful, as each of you can read the text in your own language, which will help your son to associate two different words with the same illustration and actions.
Playing some of the same games our parents played with us as children can also be helpful. Each culture has its own games, so have fun playing with your son!

Sometimes making these small changes can make the transition from one language to another easier. It also allows us to experiment before deciding whether or not we are capable of making this change, and just how fast or slow we want things to go.

María, I’m afraid this change won’t be immediate or forced, but I wish you both the best of luck with finding the right path for your bilingual family.

All the best,
Dr. Orlanda Varela

Dr. Orlanda Varela is a Child Psychiatrist and the Coordinator of the educational project for Bilingual Families at SINEWS Multilingual Therapy Institute in Madrid. SINEWS organizes bilingualism workshops for parents in Madrid, as well as personalized speech therapy sessions to bilingual families with specific language development problems. For more information, please visit sinews.es.

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Final post in the checklist series: Reading skills for third graders

Posted by bububooks on August 27, 2009

In the last of our checklist series, bububooks offers a checklist for reading skills that your child should develop throughout the third grade.  Be sure to talk with your child’s teacher for your questions.  Happy reading!

√ My child uses what he knows of phonics and word parts (prefixes, roots, suffixes) to sound out unfamiliar words.

√ My child reads third grade level texts (stories, non-fiction, magazine articles, computer screens) with fluency and comprehension.

√ My child explores topics of interest and reads longer stories and chapter books independently.

√ My child can explain the major points in fiction and non-fiction books.

√ My child identifies and discusses words or phrases she does not understand.

√ My child asks “how,” why,” and “what if” questions and discusses the themes or messages of stories.

√ My child uses information he has gathered and his own reasoning to judge explanations and opinions and distinguishes cause from effect, fact from opinion, and main ideas from supporting details.

√ My child understands and reads graphs and charts.

√ My child uses context to gain meaning from what she reads.

√ My child correctly spells words he has studied.

√ My child gathers information from a variety of sources, including books, articles, and computers, and uses it in his writing.

√ My child reviews her own written work for errors and works with teachers and classmates to edit and revise her work to make it clearer.

√ My child is starting to use metaphors and other literary forms in his writing.

√ My child discusses her writing with other children and responds helpfully to their writing.

√ My child develops his vocabulary and knowledge through independent reading

√ My child builds her vocabulary through synonyms and antonyms.

√ My child uses parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs) correctly.

The information is provided by The National Institute for Literacy.  For more information, please visit: http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications.html

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Reading checklist for second graders

Posted by bububooks on August 23, 2009

Next in our reading checklist series comes the literacy skills your child will learn while in the second grade.  Check back to this list throughout the school year and remember to talk with your child’s teacher about any questions you have.  Happy reading!

√ My child reads and understands second grade fiction and nonfiction, and compares and connects information from different sources.

√ My child reads for specific purposes and specific questions, and explores topics of interest on her own.

√ My child answers “how,” “why,” and “what-if” questions, and recalls information, main ideas, and details after reading.

√ My child interprets information from diagrams, charts, and graphs.

√ My child takes part in creative responses to stories, such as dramatizations and oral presentations.

√ My child pays attention to how words are spelled and correctly spells words he has studied.

√ My child spells a word the way it sounds if she doesn’t know its spelling.

√ My child writes for many different purposes and writes different types of compositions (for example, stories, reports, and letters).

√ My child makes thoughtful choices about what to include in his writing.

√ My child takes part in writing conferences, revises and edits what she has written, and attends to the mechanics of writing (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation) in her final version.

√ My child learns new words and shares them at school and at home.

√ My child uses clues from context and his knowledge of word parts (roots, prefixes, suffixes) to figure out what words mean.

√ My child is increasing his vocabulary with synonyms and antonyms.

√ My child uses parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs) correctly.

√ My child learns new words through independent reading.

Be sure to tune in later this week for that last of this series: third grade.  In the meantime, check out http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications.html for more information.  This checklist is provided by the National Institute for Literacy.  Give your child the gift of a lifetime: teach them to read!

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Reading skills for your first grader

Posted by bububooks on August 19, 2009

In our checklist series for learning to read, we focus on the skills first graders develop for this blog posting.  After the building blocks your child developed last year in kindergarten and strengthened over the summer, keep in mind this checklist of skills that usually develop as your child goes through the first grade.  As always, be sure to talk with your child’s teacher about any questions you may have.  Keep up the good work and have a great school year!

√ My child knows all the letters of the alphabet.

√ My child knows the difference between letters and words, and knows there are spaces between words in print.

√ My child knows that written words represent speech and can show how words are represented by letters arranged in a specific order.

√ My child knows some punctuation marks and where sentences and paragraphs begin and end.

√ My child is beginning to understand and explain why people read.

√ My child can put together (blend) and break apart the sounds of most one-syllable words and can count the number of syllables in a word.

√ My child can sound out words he doesn’t know, and recognize some irregularly spelled words, such as have, said, you, and are.

√ My child reads first grade books aloud, and can tell when she cannot understand what she is reading.

√ My child reads and understands simple written instructions.

√ My child uses what he already knows to enrich what he is reading.

√ My child predicts what will happen next in a story.

√ My child asks questions (how, why, what if?) about books she is reading and can describe what she has learned from a book.

√ My child uses invented spelling in his writing and also understands that there is a correct way to spell words.

√ My child uses simple punctuation marks and capital letters.

√ My child writes for different purposes–stories, explanations, lists, letters–and reads and revises her writing.

√ My child uses language with more control, speaks in complete sentences, and uses more formal language at school than at home and with friends.

√ My child is curious about words and uses new words when he speaks and writes.

√ My child is beginning to see that some words mean the same thing (synonyms) and some mean the opposite (antonyms).

√ My child is learning that words play different roles in sentences–that nouns name things and verbs show action, for example.

This checklist is provided by the National Institute for Literacy.  For more, visit http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications.html.  For more on bilingual children’s books, visit www.bububooks.com.  Happy reading!

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Teaching your kindergartener to read

Posted by bububooks on August 14, 2009

As school swings into session, we thought we should continue the learning to read checklists.  Below you’ll find Part 3 in our series.  Your child should develop the following skills throughout her kindergarten year.   Keep in mind, she won’t have these skills right away, but usually develops them by the end of kindergarten.  Be sure to talk with your child’s teacher for more details or if you have any questions while your child enters the magical world of reading!

√ My child listens carefully to books read aloud.

√ My child knows the shapes and names for the letters of the alpahbet and writes many uppercase and lowercase letters on his own.

√ My child knows that spoken words are made of separate sounds.

√ My child recognizes and makes rhymes, can tell when words begin with the same sound, and can put together, or blend, spoken sounds.

√ My child can sound out some letters.

√ My child knows that the order of letters in a written word stands for the order of sounds in a spoken word.

√ My child knows some common words such as a, the, I, and you, on sight.

√ My child knows how to hold a book, and follows print from left to right and from top to bottom of a page when she is read to in English.

√ My child asks and answers questions about stories and uses what she already knows to understand a story.

√ My child knows the parts of a book and understands that authors write words and text and illustrators create pictures.

√ My child knows that in most books the main message is in the print, not the pictures.

√ My child predicts what will happen in a story and retells or acts out stories.

√ My child knows the difference between “made up” fiction and “real” nonfiction books and the difference between stories and poems.

√ My child uses what he knows about letters and sounds to write words.

√ My child writes some letters and words as they are said to her and begins to spell some words correctly.

√ My child writes his own first and last name and the first names of some friends and family.

√ My child plays with words and uses new words in her own speech.

√ My child knows and uses words that are important to school work, such as the names for colors, shapes, and numbers.

√ My child knows and uses words from daily life, such as street names and the names for community workers–teacher, mail carrier, etc.

This information is provided by the National Institute for Literacy.  For more, please visit http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications.html.

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Getting your toddler ready to read

Posted by bububooks on August 10, 2009

Hello there! This blog posting serves as a ‘prequel’ of sorts to the last blog posting and focuses on getting your toddler (2 or 3 years old) ready to read.  Below is a checklist for you as you help your toddler grow with strong reading skills.  And REMEMBER: you can follow this checklist in the language YOU feel most comfortable!  Literacy skills transfer across languages, so be sure to expose your children to your native language.

√ I read with my child every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

√ I encourage my child to bring his favorite books to me so that we can read together.

√ I point to pictures and name them out loud, and encourage my child to point to pictures while we read.

√ I watch to see if my child sometimes makes eye contact with me when I read aloud.  That tells me she is paying attention to me and the story.

√ I talk with my child throughout the day about things we are doing and things that are happening around us.

√ I try to be patient when my child wants to read the same book over and over again.

√ I encourage my child to “play” with books—pick them up, flip them from front to back, and turn the pages.

√ Sometimes I listen when my child “pretends,” to read a book—he holds the book, goes from page to page, and says words, even though they’re not the words on the page.

√ I give my child paper and crayons so she can scribble, make pictures, and pretend to write.

This checklist was taken from the National Institute of Literacy.  More information can be found at www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications.html.  Happy reading!

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Getting your preschooler ready to read

Posted by bububooks on August 6, 2009

A man reads with his son

As the start of school approaches, you and your preschooler may be nervous!  So many firsts will occur during the preschool years—how exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.  One of those many firsts will include learning to read.  Below is a checklist from the National Institute for Literacy that offers ways to help your child “get ready to read” during the ages of 4 and 5.

√ I help my child hear and say the first sound in words (like “b” in boat), and notice when different words start with the same sound (like “boat” and “book”).

√ I help my child hear words that rhyme (like moose, goose, and caboose).

√ I introduce new words to my child, like “bow” and “stern,” which mean the front of a boat and the back of a boat.

√ I talk with my child about the letters of the alphabet and notice them in books, like “c” for canoe.

√ I point out signs and labels that have letters, like street signs and foods in the grocery store.

√ I encourage my child to find the joy and fun in reading.  Usually, I let my child choose the books we read.

√ I let my child pretend to read parts of the books when we read together.

√ I talk with my child about stories and make connections to things that happen in our own lives.

√ I ask “what,” “where,” and “how” questions when I read with my child to help her follow along and understand the stories.

√ I help my child write notes or make books (like an alphabet book), even if his writing only looks like scribbles or marks.

For checklists on other age ranges and for more information, visit the National Institute for Literacy at http://www.nifl.gov/nifl/publications.html

Literacy begins at home!

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