Are you raising or teaching a bilingual child? You may have noticed that their language skills develop a bit differently from those of a monolingual child. Maybe their first words come later, their pronunciation isn’t perfect, or they mix languages frequently.
Did you know that the same is true when a child is learning to read in two languages? Reading skills may develop haphazardly, but in the end, the child becomes biliterate. Regardless of the doubts you may have about whether your child’s or student’s biliteracy is developing the way it should, the end result of being able to read in two languages is worth it.
Below you can learn some specific ways to encourage literacy development in two languages.
Introduce letter sounds in both languages
Literacy begins with letters. Recognizing letters and letter sounds is the first building block in learning to read in any language. Contrary to some widespread myths, children are capable of learning two alphabets and two sets of letter sounds simultaneously.*
If your preschool-aged child or student is ready to begin learning letters, don’t forget that the Footsteps2Brilliance app is fully bilingual. Activities within the app, like See It, Catch It, are a fun way for little ones who love digital games to start recognizing letters in both English and Spanish. Simply toggle from one language to another with the button in the top right-hand corner of any screen!
Expose your child to grammatically correct sentence structure
After they know what each letter sounds like, kids can struggle with putting them together. The next step after memorizing letter sounds is learning how the parts of speech fit together into short sentences. Books give pre-readers a visual for how letters make words. Having access to a home library of bilingual books can help a child transition from fluently speaking two languages to fluently reading those same languages.
If the thought of collecting bilingual books sounds intimidating and expensive, don’t stress! You can use Footsteps2Brilliance for FREE and give your children or students full literacy support from preschool through second grade.
Continue reading aloud to develop native pronunciation
Before babies can say a word, their language skills are developing as they listen to you speak. Your child likely learned to speak in two languages with a native accent without much effort, and simply because of being exposed to both in your home and their immediate environment, or in your classroom. The same can happen with reading skills. When you read to a child for 15 minutes per day, split that into equal reading time for each language. That way, they hear the way you pronounce the words and they begin to associate the written word with the spoken word.
If you haven’t yet begun teaching your bilingual children or the bilingual students in your classroom to read, it’s not too late!