Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability How I Lost My Ear

Books for Kids

What children’s books can help nurture a child’s language ability and promote a love of reading? See these posts for suggestions!

“Bilingual Lives” is a series of profiles of interesting people who are leading bilingual (or multilingual) lives, both personally and professionally. This series was inspired by the memory of my mother, who began a bilingual life that she later regretted not being able to sustain into her adult years. If you would like your life and work to be featured in this series, please contact me.

Bilingual Lives: Delia Berlin, Author of Bilingual Picture Books

Ever wonder about the value of bilingual books for kids?

Delia Berlin, an author of bilingual picture books who grew up in Argentina and Brazil yet has lived in the United States through her adult years, wrote a very insightful guest post on this subject…

A Writer’s Perspective on the Value of Bilingual Books for Children, Families, and Schools

Honestly, Delia’s post had me looking at the value of bilingual books in a broader light and because I felt she made her points so persuasively, so eloquently, I became eager to view the books she had written. Delia then kindly sent me several of her titles and I found them full of great warmth, gentle humor, and graceful writing. (Be sure to enter the giveaway below for a chance to win one of her books!)

So when I decided to launch this new series, to celebrate bilingual lives, it seemed to me that Delia—who has led a very active bilingual life, both personally and professionally—would make an inspiring example for others. I thank her for agreeing to be featured in this way and I hope you enjoy the story she has lived—and the stories she has written—as much as I have.

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"Betty & Cat" bilingual books

Today I’d like to give a loud shout-out to author Hennie Jacobs and her uniquely bilingual children’s books. While it’s true that, as a rule, I no longer feature specific titles for bilingual children’s books at this site (continuing to do so is beyond my capacity), I feel that Hennie has taken an inspired approach to the challenge of creating “bilingual books” and I want to share her work with you.

What makes Hennie’s books different from the many other bilingual books I’ve seen is the way she incorporates the two languages in her “Betty & Cat” books. (To date, Hennie has produced three books in this series, in various pairings of these languages: English, French, Dutch, and Spanish.) While typical bilingual books for children will tell the story twice, with mirror translations of the text, Hennie has written books with two characters—“Betty” (a dog) and “Cat” (yes, a cat)—and each character speaks a different language. In other words, these stories are told through code-switching, with the dog speaking one language and the cat speaking the other language.

Here’s an example of this from the book she kindly sent to me, a Spanish/English version of At Home with Betty & Cat. Note that the dog speaks Spanish and the cat speaks English. Throughout the book, their voices—and the two languages—alternate in the same way.

At Home with Betty & Cat

First page from the book

Although this twist on traditional bilingual books may seem simple, it must be handled with considerable skill so that the story holds together well. My impression is that Hennie has achieved this aim admirably, creating clever and colorful books that bilingual families and schools will find fresh and fun as well as beneficial to their bilingual goal. (Kudos to artist Christine Duvernois, too, for her lovely and playful illustrations.)

At the same time, I should note that because the books contain no translation of the text, readers and listeners need to already have some ability in the two languages used, otherwise it may be difficult to enjoy them fully without a dictionary at hand.

To learn more about the appealing “Betty & Cat” books, read the revealing interview (below) that we pursued through an email exchange. You’ll find further information, too, at Hennie’s website.

Hennie has also agreed to provide free copies of her books to two readers of Bilingual Monkeys (and two books each!) so be sure to enter this giveaway, which closes on Friday, March 16.

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HOW-I-LOST-MY-EAR_cover_580

Friends, I have some really exciting news! My new novel, How I Lost My Ear, is now available worldwide!

I actually started writing this book 10 years ago, before I began Bilingual Monkeys and wrote the book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability. So it was a really long project and I’m so happy and relieved that I’ve finally crawled across the finish line! :mrgreen: In fact, the story itself was basically completed a year ago but then the process of illustrating it took all of 2017…because there are 136 illustrations! The illustrator is the British artist Simon Farrow and he did an incredible job. His illustrations are wonderful!

So I’m thrilled with how the book turned out and I’m eager to share it with you! It’s a really fun story: a humorous, high-spirited adventure that can appeal to all ages (7~107)!

For all the details (and a peek at the illustrations, too), please see this page…

http://bilingualmonkeys.com/how-i-lost-my-ear-book/

Of course, this book is fiction and different from my non-fiction book about raising bilingual kids, but both books will now serve the same purpose in helping me sustain and strengthen my work at Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo and keep these popular resources free for everyone.

So, as with Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability, when you lend your support to the success of How I Lost My Ear, this can benefit us both as well as many others out in the world.

Friends, please read it, please review it, and please share it through social media and word-of-mouth. Your help is so important and so appreciated. (I’d love your personal feedback, too.)

Many, many thanks! And happy reading! :mrgreen:

Adam

ADAM’S NOTE: Have you ever wondered about the value of bilingual books? This is a common question, and one that I’m so glad to have author Delia Berlin respond to in this guest post. From her thoughtful perspective, she gracefully explains the many ways bilingual books can be beneficial in the home and classroom. Thank you, Delia, for your insight—this is a post that I will now point to whenever this question is asked.

A Writer’s Perspective on the Value of Bilingual Books for Children, Families, and Schools

Delia Berlin grew up in Argentina and Brazil, but spent her adult life in the U.S. state of Connecticut. Her professional career focused on education and administration. With graduate degrees in both Physics and Family Studies, she also worked in early intervention and taught child development at the college level. While living in three countries, Delia’s world view was influenced by the need to navigate different cultures. Throughout her life, friendships with animals also shaped her learning and understanding of nature. For more information, visit www.deliaberlin.com or www.amazon.com/author/deliaberlin.

Delia BerlinInfancy and early childhood are critical periods for language development. During these periods, all children have their highest potential to learn multiple languages without special effort. When families have speakers of different languages, they have the opportunity to easily gift their children with a highly valued and useful competency. For these families and their children, bilingual books are very helpful tools to succeed in this effort.

Benefits for families

Reading to children from early infancy provides permanent benefits, both for children and for those who read to them. When a child enjoys that special interaction with a parent, the parent is rewarded, strengthening the long-term bond that raising a successful person will require. With children, early investment has the highest return. Lots of social stimulation and broad experiences in early childhood will increase curiosity, develop self-confidence, and make future learning easier.

Current research has confirmed that bilingual children learn faster, and that learning languages even supports other types of learning. The cognitive effects of bilingualism are positive through the entire lifespan, and even include protection against some forms of dementia in old age.

But most bilingual or multilingual families have some members who don’t speak all the languages in play. Different relatives will remain limited to communicating only in the languages they can speak. Accordingly, they will be able to read to children only in those languages.

Since books should be part of a child’s environment from infancy, finding enough of them at the appropriate levels in all the desired languages presents a challenge. In infancy, pictionaries are ideal for learning single words bilingually. These books can be used by anyone in the family, regardless of their own language. Since infants can’t read, they focus on the pictures and the accompanying sounds that adults make. Pictionaries are the perfect starting point for teaching labels in more than one language.

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A Fish in Foreign Waters

As parents of bilingual kids, one of our most important aims is nurturing a positive attitude toward the minority language. When a child feels that this language has value, that it benefits his or her life, our efforts to promote its growth can be far more effective. The reverse, I’m afraid, is also true, and if the child doesn’t feel much value in learning or using this language, the road ahead will be more difficult and less productive.

It’s like swimming with the current, or against it. (A fitting metaphor for the book I’m sharing today! :mrgreen: )

I’ve written several posts which involve this idea of instilling a sense of value in the minority language. You may want to return to these links after reading through this post (and entering the giveaway!)…

Getting a Bilingual Child to Feel the Value of the Minority Language

A Powerful Way to Inspire a Positive Attitude in Your Bilingual Child

The Power of Using the Minority Language to Help Others

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Journey, a wordless picture book

Books and reading should lie at the very heart of your bilingual journey.

In The Secret to Raising a Bilingual Child, I stress the tremendous power of reading aloud to your children each day, day in and day out, to nurture language and literacy development.

In How Many Books Do You Have In Your Home?, I cite sweeping international research which indicates that the larger your home library, the stronger your children’s language ability can grow.

In Free Report: The Power of Reading in Raising a Bilingual Child, I offer a PDF with a full overview of my thoughts on ways to make books and reading a central part of your efforts.

But what if your minority tongue is a less-common language? How can you meet these key conditions of the bilingual journey when children’s books in your minority language seem hard to come by? Here are several ideas…

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Bone

In my last post, How Comic Books Can Give Your Kids Bilingual Super Powers, I shared both anecdotal stories and hard research which point to the use of comic books as a highly effective resource for nurturing language development and a love of literacy.

If English is your minority language—or English might be in your children’s future at some point—the graphic novels (book-length comics) I recommend in this follow-up post may be of interest to you and your kids.

This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive—it’s simply a round-up of the better titles I’ve come across to date in using comic books as a key resource with my kids and students.

For many more suggestions, I highly recommend the book A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics; the lengthy list of graphic novels offered by the American Library Association; and the review websites No Flying No Tights and Comics Worth Reading.

I use this book and these sites for ideas, then move to amazon to study reviews and peek at the pages for a sense of the reading level.

Click for some captivating comic books →

RESOURCES

Let me propose a basic principle of success at raising bilingual children, something that I suggest is true for 99% of families in the world, whatever the minority language. (And this is especially true if you seek higher levels of literacy in that language, though your children attend a majority language school.)

The more resources you have in the minority language, the more suitable those resources are for the child’s age, language level, and interests, and the more actively you use those resources in the home, the more progress will be made.

This sounds obvious, I know, but my sense is that many families, despite high hopes for their children’s bilingual development, are lacking in resources (books, magazines, games, CDs, DVDs, software, etc.) for the minority language.

Why is that?

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Poem by Shel Silverstein

How much do you use poetry with your children to nurture the minority language?

My sense is that many parents (myself included) don’t make use of poetry to the extent that they could, and should, beyond the early stage of nursery rhymes.

The fact is, poetry is a highly effective means of promoting language acquisition. Exposing children to the sound and rhythm of your target language, through suitable poetry, can foster deeper sensitivity to that language and help lay the foundation for reading ability—which is ultimately the key to higher and higher levels of proficiency.

And even if every word isn’t understood, poetry adds to a child’s growing vocabulary, introduces the magic of figurative language, like metaphor, and builds awareness for precision in writing and speaking.

At the same time, poetry feeds a child’s intellectual and emotional development. With its compact power, poetry can be a potent way of expressing concepts and emotions—from the silly to the sublime—thereby expanding a child’s insight and imagination.

If all this weren’t enough, poetry can be great fun for both reader and listener!

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The winners are in! Tatiana in Ukraine has won “Bosley Sees the World” and Kiara in Italy has won “Bosley Goes to the Beach”! Congratulations! Tim Johnson of The Language Bear will contact you directly to arrange delivery of your books!

Tim has also agreed to offer a special discount to any reader of this blog who would like to purchase a book. To place an order, simply click here for “Bosley Sees the World” or here for “Bosley Goes to the Beach.” Then, on the order form, enter the secret word monkey in the “Offer code” field. The 25% discount is good only for the first 20 copies of each book, so place your order soon if you’d like a copy at this lower price. (If you have any questions, please email Tim at The Language Bear.)

Bosley Bear

Want to win a colorful bilingual children’s book, courtesy of Bilingual Monkeys and The Language Bear?

If you’re already a subscriber to the Bilingual Monkeys Newsletter, just skip merrily ahead to learn more about the books produced by The Language Bear and how to enter the giveaway.

If you’re not yet a subscriber to my weekly newsletter (it’s free!), simply click the link below to enter your first name and email address. You’ll then be eligible for this giveaway and every other upcoming contest held at Bilingual Monkeys. Not only that, you’ll regularly get additional ideas and inspiration not found on this site to help boost your children’s language ability.

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For more details on the newsletter, and other subscription options, see the subscribe page. To view the fun results of the last contest, which involved “surprise packages” sent by me and my kids from Hiroshima to winning families in France, Germany, and Serbia, see Do You Remember Those “Surprise Packages” from Japan?

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Poems by Mary Ann Hoberman I’m not as familiar as I’d like to be with children’s poets and poetry (hey, that rhymes!), but one of my favorites to date is Mary Ann Hoberman, a former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate and the author of over 40 books. We have a number of her titles and I’ve turned to them regularly, and with great success, as a source of fun, lyrical material for my kids and students.

Hoberman is remarkably deft with verse and her work is consistently clever and witty. If you’d like to add some splendid books of poetry to your home library—books that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike (and are particularly good for nurturing the language development of younger children)—I highly recommend the lively, lighthearted work of Mary Ann Hoberman.

Click for suggested titles and links →