bububooks

Helping children develop their American and native cultural identities together.

Posts Tagged ‘multiracial children’

Repost of an excellent article on bilingual children, the benefits for children, challenges for parents and tips for success

Posted by bububooks on March 2, 2010

We’ve already shared this article on Facebook and Twitter, but we love it so much we decided to post it here too!  You can find the original article at: www.northjersey.com

Raising multilingual children
Monday, March 1, 2010
BY KATHRYN DAVIS
THE PARENT PAPER

We live in a multilingual world. It is not uncommon to walk down the street in any U.S. city and hear several different languages being spoken. Around the world, children are learning English as a second language at a very young age, enabling them to develop the skills necessary to interact with people all over the globe. There is no doubt about the benefits of being able to communicate in more than one language. Such ability offers the opportunity for independence, whether for business, education, leisure or travel.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 10 million children between the ages of 5 and 17, or about 20 percent of children over 5, already speak a language other than English at home. Experts are citing more and more evidence of the benefits of multilingual development from an early age. While there has been some suggestion that learning a second language can delay speech acquisition and language development, research demonstrates otherwise.

More and more parents are seeking to provide their children with the advantages that bilingualism offers. That goal leads to some basic questions. When does language acquisition start? When and how should children begin learning a second language?

The basics

The young mind, particularly in infancy, is malleable. In the first few months, crying, whimpering and cooing are the primary forms of communication. Soon a baby starts to distinguish individual sounds and will begin to mimic those sounds or syllables. He will learn to distinguish between “ma” and “da” and will start to babble.

Vocalization is a baby’s way of entertaining himself, but it is also how he discovers ways to use his mouth, his tongue and vocal chords to make sounds. At one point, his speech may sound almost as though he is making sense. This is because his tones and patterns are based on the language he hears around him. Eventually, these babblings will develop into individual words that will facilitate true communication. The individual phonemes, or words sounds, that develop are primarily based on the language spoken in the home. Young children who hear more than one language develop additional sounds and, eventually, additional words that represent concepts, objects or people.

Programs that teach infants sign language have claimed to help babies as young as 10 months to communicate, before they are able to articulate with words. Experts say learning to communicate through a second language, even sign language, can be beneficial to cognitive development. However, raising a bilingual child requires a commitment of consistency in the long-term.

In her article, “Two or More Languages in Early Childhood: Some General Points and Practical Recommendations,” Annick De Houwer of the University of Antwerp and Science Foundation in Flanders, Belgium says, “A prevailing idea is that it is very easy for children to learn a new language and that hardly any effort is involved. However, learning language, even one, is a process that takes many years.”

While it is true that language acquisition is easier when it is done at a young age, it is the opportunities to hear and use a language consistently over time that brings success. De Houwer points out, “Languages are very complex. To learn all their complexities, one needs a lot of life experience…The environment plays an important role in learning to speak. Children learn to speak only when they hear people talk to them in many different circumstances.”

Pros and cons

Is there a downside to bilingualism? Not so many years ago, the prevailing wisdom was that children who learn to speak two languages tended to confuse the two, interchanging words from both languages in their speech, even within the same sentence. However, studies have shown otherwise.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Ottawa studied infants to find out whether the demand of acquiring more sounds and words leads to differences in language development. The experiment involved repeatedly presenting two different objects labeled as “bih” and “dih.” In every group tested, the bilingual infants noticed the change in the object’s name at a later age (20 months vs. 17 months) than the monolingual babies. While this may seem like the monolingual infants were more successful, the researchers theorized that the bilingual infants were focusing more on making a connection between objects and words, rather than just attending to details of sound.

Another study of 40 7-month-old babies by The Language, Cognition, and Development Lab at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy also suggests exposure to more than one language at an early age has benefits. Half of the babies in this study came from homes where two different languages were spoken. The experiment involved using a computer where characters were displayed on one of two screens just after word-like sounds were played. Researchers tested the babies’ ability to anticipate upon which screen a character would appear based on various sounds. Only the babies from the bilingual homes were able to use the newly learned sounds to predict where the cartoon would appear. The author of the study, Jacques Mehler, points out that this skill can apply to more than just the ability to switch between languages.

Experts say babies raised in a bilingual environment may exhibit some slight delays in speech development, but that delay is only temporary. Overall, the benefits can be far-reaching.

According to Carey Myles, author of Raising Bilingual Children, “Bilingual language skills have also been correlated with improved cognitive performance in children. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C., bilinguals take a more creative approach to problem-solving, read earlier on average than their monolingual peers, and score higher on standardized tests like the SAT.”

Beyond the obvious benefits of a second language, Myles points out, “…language is a powerful factor in shaping a child’s identity. When children in bilingual families understand the culture of each parent, family bonds are strengthened.”

Giving children fluency in more than one language is possible, but it is not simple. Parents should have realistic expectations about the process and results of raising a bilingual child. “Even parents able to spend every summer in the ‘home country’ or to enroll their children in language immersion programs at school may find that their children’s language proficiency is not exactly the same in each language,” Myles notes. “The good news is that this is completely normal and what most adult bilinguals typically experience, too.”

Methods of instruction

Families wishing to promote their child’s second language acquisition have options. One parent, one language, (OPOL) is one method in which each parent speaks only one language. In this way, the child learns to distinguish between the two languages. Another method is the “home language approach.” Here the family speaks one language inside the home, while the child acquires the community’s language outside the home. A third option is immersion, often done through a formal program.

“I think there are probably as many ways as there are families,” says Myles. “Parents should consider their situation and what resources they have to support their minority language. I don’t think one can say a certain method is better than others; although I don’t think artificial schedules, like French at dinnertime, really work.”

There are drawbacks to any method. Myles points out that when only one parent is providing exposure to a second language, “it can be hard on that parent. With limited exposure to the minority language, children are naturally stronger in the majority language. It is not uncommon for a parent in that situation to give up using the minority language exclusively with the children, in favor of better communication.”

Some parents turn to immersion programs through formal education at schools like the French Academy of Bergen County. “At 2 years old, 90 percent of the curriculum is taught in French,” explains Executive Director Anne-Sophie Gueguen. “As the children get older, the number of hours taught in English slowly increases.”

By the time children are in fourth grade, Gueguen says they receive equal teaching in both French and English. “The ultimate goal at FABC is to raise children equally in both languages.”

Gueguen understands the advantages of speaking two languages, citing skills many do not usually associate with language. “The intellectual stimulation involved in learning two languages, knowing two words for one meaning, reinforces abstraction and problem solving skills. The benefits of this stimulation are remarkable in math.”

Another way children often “pick up” a second language is referred to as “receptive bilingualism.” In this case, children understand the minority language spoken at home, but do not speak it. “This kind of bilingualism is more common than people realize in the United States,” says Myles. There are ways in which parents can encourage children to speak their second language. Sometimes parents tell their children that the grandparents do not understand English. “Some parents simply don’t respond until rebellious older children use the appropriate language,” Myles explains.

No matter which method parents use, reading books is an excellent means of supporting language acquisition. Early language development depends on vocabulary development. Parents can take advantage of this time spent reading with their children to encourage vocabulary growth in both languages. In fact, any time parents read with their children, the benefits are extensive and it is never too soon to begin this practice.

Though most children who grow up with two languages do so because they live in bilingual homes, there are an increasing number of parents who make the choice of bilingualism for their children. The advantages of a second language are clear, and that’s the same in any language.

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Latino teens happier, healthier if families embrace biculturalism

Posted by bububooks on October 23, 2009

Latino Print NetworkI wanted to share this article I received from the Latino Print Network by Kirk Whisler.  A new study from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill shows that Latino teens who embrace their Latino culture and whose parents embrace U.S. culture live healthier lives, academically, socially and emotionally.  I think the benefits of biculturalism would apply to all ethnic groups in the US because embracing both cultures in a family and environment supports a family and community bond. Read on and share your thoughts!

Over the years, research has shown that Latino youth face numerous risk factors when integrating into American culture, including increased rates of alcohol and substance use and higher rates of dropping out of school.

But a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows adolescents who actively embrace their native culture – and whose parents become more involved in U.S. culture – stand a greater chance of avoiding these risks and developing healthier behaviors overall.

The findings are from a longitudinal study by the UNC-based Latino Acculturation and Health Project, which is supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and directed by Paul Smokowski, Ph.D., an associate professor at the UNC School of Social Work. Researchers interviewed 281 Latino youths and parents in North Carolina and Arizona, asking questions about a wide range of measures of lifestyle and mental health. Participants answered according to how much they agreed with each question (for example, from “not at all” to “very much”), resulting in scores on a scale for each measure.

“We found teens who maintain strong ties to their Latino cultures perform better academically and adjust more easily socially,” Smokowski said. “When we repeated the survey a year later, for every 1-point increase in involvement in their Latino cultures, we saw a 13 percent rise in self-esteem and a 12 to 13 percent decrease in hopelessness, social problems and aggressive behavior.

“Also, the study showed parents who develop a strong bicultural perspective have teen children who are less likely to feel anxiety and face fewer social problems,” he said. “For every increase in a parent’s involvement in United States culture, we saw a 15 to 18 percent decrease in adolescent social problems, aggression and anxiety one year later. Parents who were more involved in U.S. culture were in a better position to proactively help their adolescents with peer relations, forming friendships and staying engaged in school. This decreases the chances of social problems arising.”

“Such results suggest that Latino youth and their parents benefit from biculturalism,” Smokowski said.

The findings are presented as part of a series of articles featured next month in a special issue of The Journal of Primary Prevention, a collaborative initiative between UNC and the CDC. The special issue presents the latest research on how cultural adaptation influences Latino youth behaviors – including involvement in violence, smoking and substance use, as well as overall emotional well-being – and offers suggestions for primary prevention programs that support minority families.

“Bicultural adolescents tend to do better in school, report higher self esteem, and experience less anxiety, depression and aggression,” said study co-author Martica Bacallao, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, whose work is also featured in the special issue. “It is interesting that, in order to obtain these benefits of biculturalism, adolescents and parents often need to do the opposite of what their natural tendencies tell them. Parents who are strongly tied to their native cultures must reach out to learn skills in the new culture. Adolescents who quickly soak up new cultural behaviors should slow down and cultivate the richness in their native cultures.”

Smokowski added: “The burgeoning size of the Latino population and the increasingly important roles that Latino youth will play in American culture are worthy of community attention. Communities can either invest in prevention to nurture Latino youth as a national resource or pay a heavy price later in trying to help these youth address social problems such as substance use, aggression or dropping out of school; all of which often results from the stress of acculturation.”

Along with Smokowski and Bacallao, Rachel L. Buchanan, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work at Salisbury University in Maryland, was a co-author of the study, titled “Acculturation and Adjustment in Latino Adolescents: How Cultural Risk Factors and Assets Influence Multiple Domains of Adolescent Mental Health.”

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Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept 15-Oct 15

Posted by bububooks on September 17, 2009

iStock_000006456892SmallHispanic Heritage Month began this week.  It originally began as a week long celebration in 1968 when Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim it.  During this month, we celebrate the cultures and traditions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South Americas and the Caribbean.  Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept 15 because five Latin American countries gained independence from Spain on this day: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.  Also, Mexico celebrates its independence day on Sept. 16th, while Chile celebrates its on the 18th.

National Activities
You can use this month to celebrate Hispanic culture in America and to learn more about it.  There is so much to do!  For a list of events throughout the nation, be sure to check out http://www.hispanicheritagemonth.net/calendar.html.

Children’s Activities
colorin coloradoOf course, with us being a children’s bookstore, we need to focus on activities for the kids!  For that, we turn to our all-time favorite, ¡Colorín colorado! On this page, you can find fun activities for your kids, including word searches and crossword puzzles as well as other activity sheets focusing on words and language.  Also, ¡Colorín colorado! has set up a link where you can send e-cards to your friends and families!  Now, for the adults, this awesome website offers information, history, teaching materials, classroom activities, lesson plans and other resources and links for you to use.  Be sure to bookmark that page!

Children’s Reading List
We at bububooks have also created a book list to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with your children.

Celebrations / Celebraciones: Holidays of the United States of America and Mexico / Dias feriados de los Estados Unidos y Mexico

Celebrations

Explore the ways Mexicans and Americans observe holidays throughout the year and learn how the common values and beliefs these countries share are reflected in their special days.

Purchase this bilingual book

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Somo un arco iris / We are a Rainbow

Rainbow “Are we as different as we might think? I say sol. You say sun. No matter how we say it, it is the same one.” Nancy Maria Grande Tabor, via a simple text and vivid art, establishes that children of two entirely different cultures are really quite similar. We Are a Rainbow helps young readers begin building the cultural bridges of common human understanding through simple comparisons of culture from breakfast foods to legends. Colorful cut-paper art and gentle language deliver this universal message eloquently.

Purchase this bilingual book

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El gusto del mercado Mexicano / A Taste of the Mexican Market

Mexican Market

Let’s visit a Mexican market!

Along the way you can compare, weigh, count, and learn about culture and customs. From bunches of hanging bananas and braids of garlic to pyramids of melon and baskets of sweet cheese, this Mexican market is full of fun and surprises.

Colorful cut-paper art sets the scene for a creative way to build new vocabulary for beginning readers of Spanish or English.

Purchase this bilingual book

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Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems/ Jitomatesrisueños y otros poemas de primavera

Laughing TomatoesFrom the imagination of poet Francisco X. Alarcón comes this playful and moving collection of twenty poems about spring in English and Spanish. Tomatoes laugh, chiles explode, and tortillas applaud the sun! With joy and tenderness, delight and sadness, Francisco’s poems honor the wonders of life and nature: welcoming the morning sun, remembering his grandmother’s songs, paying tribute to children working in the fields, and sharing his dream of a world filled with gardens. Artist Maya Christina Gonzalez invites us to experience the poems with her lively cast of characters—including a spirited grandmother, four vivacious children, and playful pets who tease and delight. Follow them from page to page as they bring the spring season to colorful life.

Purchase this bilingual book

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Ve lo que dices / See What You Say

See what you say

In this entertaining, bilingual exploration of language, children are introduced to a second language and get a glimpse of another culture. Ve lo que dices/See What You Say explores the ways two different cultures view their own languages through familiar idioms. Sometimes the words we use have a different meaning from what we say. For instance, if a person becomes hasty and does things out of order, in English we say he has put the cart before the horse. In Spanish he is starting to build the house at the roof. Although they mean the same thing, the literal sense of these phrases is quite different. In Ve lo que dices/See What You Say, these contrasting expressions become charming and vivid vignettes.

Nancy María Grande Tabor’s signature cut paper illustrations are remarkable in their three-dimensional quality and light-hearted presentation of some very off-the-wall phrases. Children and adults alike will have a great time guessing what idiom each illustration represents.

Purchase this bilingual book

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Where Fireflies Dance / Ahí donde bailan las luciérnagas

where fireflies danceIn her first book for children, award-winning author Lucha Corpi remembers her childhood growing up in Jáltipan, Mexico, where the moon hung low and the fireflies flickered in the night air. In vivid and poetic detail, she recalls exploring with her brother the old haunted house of the legendary revolutionary Juan Sebastián, discovering the music that came from the jukebox at the local cantina, and getting caught by their mother for their mischievous adventures. Most of all, she remembers the ballads her father sang and the stories her grandmother told. In her stories, her grandmother passes on an important message about growing up—each person, like the revolutionary Juan Sebastián, has a destiny to follow.

Purchase this bilingual book

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Flag Quiz
Click here to test your knowledge of flags throughout Latin America, provided by WTXL ABC 27 in Tallahassee, Fla. Bet you’ll beat Laura!

Fun Facts
For some interesting statistics on the Hispanic population in America, click here.  Test your knowledge and learn more too!

Activities in Chicago
For events occurring throughout Hispanic Heritage Month in Chicago, check out ABC 7 Chicago’s The Ñ Beat with Theresa Gutierrez. Click here for more information.

Activities in South Georgia
Valdosta State University will host several events throughout month.  See the list here–hope to see you there!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this posting and are excited as we are to check out some of these events.  Feel free to share more!

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Tips for teachers of English language learners

Posted by bububooks on September 13, 2009

As teachers get ready for school to start in the fall, they might consider a few tips on making students welcome who don’t speak English as a native language. More students speak Spanish as their first language than any other group in the U.S., but there are over a hundred other mother tongues spoken by kids from kindergarten to twelfth grade around this country. No one teacher can possibly know all of these. So, what’s a teacher to do? Two websites offer some practical advice:

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3747021&FullBreadCrumb=%3Ca+href%3D%22http%3A%2F

and http://www.colorincolorado.org/educators/reachingout/welcoming

There is plenty of research demonstrating that English language learners (or ELLs for short) learn best by drawing on what they already know. That means, they learn best when they start with the language they already speak, their native language (or L1). Children are not blank states when starting kindergarten. This tends to be an unpopular notion in many places, as it was in the Word Geek’s childhood. The idea back in the Olden Days was to punish a child for speaking anything but the “best” meaning the textbook or Standard version of English. The result was, predictably, that kids who didn’t already speak a pretty standard version quit talking altogether in school and made very little progress, then stopped going to school as soon as they could get away with it. This tended to be around the fourth grade (age 8 or 9). Or, because these children struggle to learn math and science in their L2, they get placed in special education classes in which they become bored and disgruntled. This pattern is NOT recommended!

Instead of following this mournful and unsuccessful pattern, consider the tips described by David and Yvonne Freeman at the first site above:

1. Pair a newcomer (an ELL with little or no English) with a partner who speaks his or her L1 as well as some English. Make sure the partner knows this buddy position is a prestigious job and you are very impressed at how well he or she carries it off. The buddy’s job description should include making sure the newcomer knows the class rules, gets the class assignments, and, hopefully, this buddy does some translating.

2. Invite a parent volunteer into the classroom to read aloud to the class in the L1 of the newcomer(s). If this involves showing lots of pictures, even the English speakers should get something out of it. Plus, they’ll get some idea of what it’s like to be unable to understand every word of what’s going on – empathy, in other words. Not a bad idea!

3. Let the kids speak in their L1. The Word Geek wishes to put this one up in lights, so she will repeat it in capital letters and add an exclamation mark: LET THE KIDS SPEAK IN THEIR L1! Maybe she should throw some firecrackers in to get some people’s attention here, adding extra exclamation marks for more emphasis. LET THE KIDS SPEAK IN THEIR L1!!!

4. Build a class library in the students’ L1s. It’s especially helpful if some of these books are what we once called “ponies,” in the Olden Days. That means, there is the L1 on one page. On the facing page, the same text is in English. This way, a student sees that his or her native language is respected and supported, and the child can go from the known (L1) to the unknown (L2), with a lot less pain and hassle. The Word Geek was once very fond of such ponies and still has a few in her possession.

5. Organize bilingual tutoring, for example by partnering with a teacher of a class a year or two older than your own, in which there are students who speak the same L1 as your students. These older kids who presumably also speak a little more English can help tutor your students, do a little translating. It’s good for their education and self-esteem as well as helping your students along. A person never learns better than when helping someone else learn.

6. Provide students pen pals, whether in their L1 or L2, and whether through e-mail or by means of old-fashioned pen and paper. Go to the first website above to find a couple of online sites to locate e-mail pen pals. This type of writing is a lot more interesting than writing boring sentences in response to even duller reading exercises.

7. Encourage writing in a journal, whether in the L1 or L2. Sometimes, writing about the acquisition of L2 (namely English) in the L1 is one of the best ways to get a student to think about it after school.

8. Create books of students’ own writings. That is to say, with the computer it is relatively easy to type up things that students write, duplicate them, print them out, and even bind them in inexpensive ways. These can be done in the L1 or L2. “Ponies” created in this way can be distributed to the entire class, giving a newcomer a new feeling of being part of a class, not an outsider. Many of the fonts required to print, say, Vietnamese or Arabic or whatever are already available on the internet for free – or relatively cheaply.

9. Use L1 storytellers to support the ELLs language and culture and share with the rest of the class. The teacher can help bring in the rest of the class by teaching a story ahead of time, or having the class read the story or act it out, if they are too young to read it yet. That way, no one need feel left out when the storyteller comes and speaks another language.

10. Put up the signs that are displayed in the classroom in both English and any L1s spoken by students. This shows that the L1 is valued and, therefore, the student who speaks it is also valued.

Time for an object lesson:  When the Word Geek took an introductory linguistics class in college, years ago, the professor told of taking a rabbit in a cage to a first grade classroom. The children in the classroom seemed inordinately quiet and the regular teacher agreed, saying that the kiddies were all “culturally deprived” (using the parlance of the times).

The linguistics professor said that she had a cure for that dread condition. The rabbit was part of it. She put the cage on the teacher’s desk and told the silent students that she and the other teacher had to leave the classroom for a moment. “But I need you kids to help me out,” she told them. “Mr. Bunny will get very, very sick if I go away and nobody talks to him. So, while we’re gone, you need to talk to him and keep talking until I get back. Will you do that for me?” 

The kids silently nodded.

The professor and the teacher silently left the classroom. The kids did not see, but the professor had silently started a tape recorder behind the desk.

When the professor got back, as soon as she opened the door of the classroom, the kids were quiet, so she had no idea if her plan had worked. But later, when she played the tape for the teacher, the two adults heard a great cacophony of noise. The whole time the grownups had been out of the room, all the children had been talking to that rabbit, calling him “Mr. Bunny,” telling him not to be scared, letting him know he would be all right. They did not speak perfect Standard English. But they could speak all right and their meaning was clear enough.

Why wouldn’t they talk when their teacher was there? As the professor pointed out to us, when someone gets onto you every time you open your mouth, you stop opening your mouth. So, at the risk of beating a dead horse, LET THE KIDS SPEAK IN THEIR L1. They’ll eventually get to L2 that way. But if they stop talking altogether, they’ll never get anywhere.

This article was written by Diana Gainer, the Word Geek Examiner, on http://www.examiner.com.  Laura Renner added some of her own thoughts as well.

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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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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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Two reasons for bububooks

Posted by bububooks on July 28, 2009

bububooks' logo

bububooks' logo

After a great weekend at Latino Expo USA and the Chicago Chinatown Dragon Boat Race for Literacy, I thought I would use today’s blog to offer two reasons to shop at www.bububooks.com

1)   Reading skills transfer across languages. Even if your child learns to read in Spanish or Chinese, they’ll be able to transfer those reading skills once they start to learn English.  Therefore, read to your child in the language you’re most comfortable.

Also, children like to read the same books over and over.  If you have two languages at home (each parent has their own dominant language), use bilingual books to read the story to your children in both languages.

The most important thing is to read to your child!  It does not necessarily have to be in English.  Read in the language you are most comfortable.

2)   These books help your child to develop their cultural identities.  The main character in most children’s books is Caucasian.  bububooks strives to offer storybooks that highlight aspects of Latino (mostly Mexican-American as of now) and Chinese culture.  Even if your child doesn’t speak a foreign language, the lack of children stories that discuss topics related to your culture will affect how they view themselves and your culture.

Thanks for your continued support.  We hope to see you at our next event or online!

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More tips for reading at home with your child

Posted by bububooks on July 24, 2009

I enjoyed these tips so much I had to share them with you.  They were written by Deanna Lyles, cofounder of Bilingual Readers, a brand new publishing company which provides resources for bilingual and multilingual families and communities.  This article was taken from http://www.SpanglishBaby.com.

A very patient Spanish speaking mom has been reading her daughter Sara’s favorite book Yo Tigre out loud to her in Spanish every night at bedtime for the last month. But tonight Mom’s out with some friends, and it’s English speaking Dad’s turn to read Sara to sleep. He dutifully pulls out adorable children’s book after adorable children’s book, but it’s no use: Sara wants Yo Tigre, and Where the Wild Things Are just isn’t going to cut it. What’s a bilingual Dad to do? Is it alright for a parent in a One Parent One Language home to break his commitment to speaking to his child only in his native language when the child’s love of reading is at stake?

Most of us are aware that reading aloud to small children is one of the greatest tools parents have for helping their children’s language development along. But when it comes to reading aloud in a bilingual home, many questions arise as to who should read to children in what languages. In OPOL homes the easy answer is that each parent should read to the child in his or her native language, but putting this principle into practice is often anything but simple.

Although they are sometimes hard to find for certain language combinations, bilingual books are one of the best tools for getting the most out of storytime in a OPOL home. While reading monolingual books to your children is certainly beneficial, bilingual books are an especially useful tool for bilingual families. Bilingual books allow both parents to take turns reading the same book to their kids, each parent in his own language. If one parent reads a book to a child in English and the other parent reads the same book in Spanish, the child will automatically begin to associate both languages with the stories and objects on the pages of the book. We all know that children love to read and be read the same stories over and over again, so hearing the exact same text in each language every time a book is read is an easy way to reinforce vocabulary and sentence structure for the bilingual child.

In addition to taking advantage of bilingual books, there are also other strategies for reading consistently to your kids while sticking to the OPOL method. Regardless of whether or not you read monolingual or bilingual books (most families will read both),establish a routine to make sure that each parent is reading to the kids in his or her language every single day. If you stick to this routine, it’ll be a great tool for developing your child’s language abilities in both languages. You can also make recordings of your voice reading your kids’ favorite stories out loud. This way your child can still listen to Mom’s soothing voice read a story in Spanish or Dad doing all the fun voices in English anytime, anywhere. (A friend confessed that these recordings are also great for long trips in the car).

Last but not least, if you’ve broken the rules and read a story to your child in your second language, don’t beat yourself up over it. While consistency is key in any bilingual home, nobody’s perfect and slipping up every once in a while will not scar your child for life. The same thing goes for those of you who may not have been consistent readers in the past. Thankfully each day is a new opportunity to read to and with your children. Happy reading!

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Big weekend coming up for bububooks!

Posted by bububooks on July 20, 2009

bububooks will have a booth at two major events this upcoming weekend in Chicago.  One will be at the Latin Family Expo at McCormick Place West July 25-28.  The other will be at the 2009 Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy in the Ping Tom Memorial Park on July 25th.

Latin Expo USA

2009 Latin Expo USA

2009 Latin Expo USA

The Latin Expo USA represents a significant part of the National Council of La Raza Annual Conference.  Open to the public with free admission, the Expo will feature over 200 exhibitors (including bububooks) for you and your family to enjoy.  The Expo will also feature health and career fairs.  The schedule is as follows:

Saturday, July 25 10:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, July 26 10:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Monday, July 27 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 – 5:00 p.m.

We’ve been preparing for this big event and hope to see you there! 

Dragon Boat Race for Literacy

The Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce presents the 9th annual Dragon Boat Race for Literacy. The Chinese Dragon Boat Race has a history of over 2,000 years and is a popular sport among Chinese and Asian communities all over the world. Started in 1999, the Chicago Dragon Boat Race has always been a family-fun activity enjoyed by the residents of Chinatown and the surrounding neighborhoods. Each year, almost 10,000 people watch and participate in the activities. In 2008, the event raised over $6,000 to support literacy and the promotion of culture and diversity in our local schools.  bububooks, of course, supports literacy and so we’re proud to be a part of this event! The competition begins at 9:00 a.m. and races end at approximately 4:00 p.m. Opening ceremonies begin at 8:30 a.m. Admission is free for all.  Hope to see you there!

2009 Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy

2009 Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy

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