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!

Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book

While it’s vital to provide ample language exposure to our children through continuous efforts like talking to them a lot and reading to them a lot, another productive option for language input involves short-term projects. Over the years I’ve shared a variety of ideas for creative projects—projects pursued by myself or other parents—that can give a significant boost to your bilingual journey by engaging your kids in fun, effective activities that make use of the target language. These projects with kids have included making creative videos, producing a podcast, publishing a book, and even blogging about a stuffed animal that was sent on a trip around the world.

This year, because local schools were closed for several months as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, my 13-year-old son and I took up a new project together. And in fact, our pet was involved, too. She’s a bearded dragon and her name is Fifa. Here she is sitting on the kitchen table…

Fifa, the inspiration for Bearded Dragon Daydreams

In a way, Fifa actually played the most important role in this project because she inspired the whole thing. You see, as bearded dragons tend to do, Fifa spends quite a lot of time just sitting quietly and staring off into space. So Roy and I were wondering: Just what is Fifa daydreaming about all the time? And from that question came the idea of creating a coloring book of imaginative daydream scenes. With the support of an illustrator friend, we then developed the book, day by day and page by page, over the course of about three months—and all this interaction was in English, our minority language.

The final result, recently released, is Bearded Dragon Daydreams, a fun-filled coloring book for all ages that consists of 30 illustrations plus two “challenge pages” for creating your own bearded dragon daydreams.

Download free sample pages from the book for coloring—and promoting language exposure (any language!)—with your kids.

Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book

Get a copy of the book at Amazon, Amazon UK, other global Amazon sites, and other online booksellers.

Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book

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Chameleon Reader

If only Chameleon Reader had been around when I was teaching bilingual kids, and when my own kids were small! It would have been such a fun and effective way to nurture their ability in our minority language!

Full disclosure: Over the past eight years, since I began this blog, I’ve regularly gotten requests to review books and products and services with some connection to raising bilingual kids. And in many cases, I’ve received free “review copies” of these things, which is also true of Chameleon Reader. However, I only blog about resources that I can genuinely recommend and Chameleon Reader is honestly the single most useful and flexible product I’ve ever seen for supporting parents and teachers in their efforts to nurture language development in children. (And I have no financial stake in saying so.)

At the same time, I do have a couple of minor quibbles with the version of the product that I tried out at home—and I’ll mention these, too—but the fact remains that Chameleon Reader is such an incredibly clever and helpful device that such quibbles do nothing to detract from my full (even overflowing) enthusiasm for it.

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Dylan's Birthday Present

There aren’t too many children’s books out there in the world about children who are bilingual or multilingual, but Victor Santos has just published an appealing new picture book called Dylan’s Birthday Present. And it not only features multilingual kids, it features a multilingual chicken! I interviewed Victor, by email, about his new book, actually the first book in a series about bilingual and multilingual kids. :mrgreen:

Victor, tell us about your new series of children’s books.

The new series is called Little Polyglot Adventures and the main purpose of the books is to make children ages 4-8 aware of the value of different languages and different cultures in a fun, visually-appealing, and at times, humorous way.

Book #1 in the series is already out and available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Russian, and Ukrainian, in both monolingual and bilingual versions. We intend to release it in dozens of other languages in the upcoming months. Book #1 is called Dylan’s Birthday Present and it’s the story of a multilingual and multicultural boy named Dylan who receives a very unusual present for his birthday, only to lose it shortly after. Together with his best friend Emma, a sweet bilingual girl who speaks English and Zulu and whose parents come from South Africa, Dylan sets out to find his lost birthday present. During their search, the two friends learn about the value of speaking other languages, the value of friendship, and the value of appreciating one’s own and as well as others’ cultural and linguistic background. In the book, kids will learn new words (including their actual pronunciation) in three different languages and feel like little polyglots themselves.

Book #2 is already written and is currently being illustrated. The tentative release date for the second book in the series is currently October 2020.

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**Finalist in both the Readers’ Favorite 2019 International Book Award Contest and the 2019 IAN Book of the Year Awards.**

How I Lost My Ear

“How I Lost My Ear is an extraordinary imaginative achievement.”

“Adam Beck is a master storyteller, a master of invention.”

“Reminds me of the best of Roald Dahl.”

Friends, it’s hard to say how long we’ll be sheltered at home because of the coronovirus, but as long as this lasts, I’m making the digital version of my fun-filled novel available for free for anyone who would like to read it, with the hope that it can add some joy to your days. “How I Lost My Ear” is an engaging tale for both children and adults, for reading alone or reading aloud. (This digital version contains the full story and all 136 illustrations found in the paperback.)

To download the book for free (until June 30), just click right here, choose “I want this!” on the book page, then use the discount code “free” at check-out.

Please also feel free to share the download link and discount code with others, something like:

Adam Beck’s fun-filled novel for children and adults is now available for free. Download the digital version of “How I Lost My Ear”, which contains the full story and all 136 illustrations found in the paperback, by going to https://gum.co/how-i-lost-my-ear and using the discount code “free“.

How-I-Lost-My-Ear_28

The epic, laugh-out-loud novel from author Adam Beck and illustrator Simon Farrow. A wildly entertaining page-turner for both children and adults, to read alone or read aloud. Finalist in both the Readers’ Favorite 2019 International Book Award Contest and the 2019 IAN Book of the Year Awards.

Grandpa Gristle spins the story of a book-loving boy and his spiraling adventure with a state champion marching band, a moody grandmother with beautiful blond curls, a long-lost hero and his three-legged moose, a dancing bear, a poisonous spider, a baby-snatching owl, a shaggy yak of a man and his snapping turtle, a cold-hearted sheriff and his grinning deputy, a herd of 144 spitting llamas—and a very large, very hungry ogre.

How-I-Lost-My-Ear_10

“Brilliant…an extraordinary imaginative achievement, utterly delightful, and a pleasure from start to finish. One minute it’s laugh out loud stuff, the next it’s heart in the mouth tension, and then it can be suddenly rather moving… It is wonderful, wonderful stuff.”
—Andrew Norriss, children’s author and winner of the Whitbread Award for Aquila

“Powerful, whimsical, and utterly hilarious. It reminds me of the best of Roald Dahl with a little bit of J.D. Salinger thrown in. You will love this book!”
—Josh Selig, Emmy Award-winning creator of “The Wonder Pets” on Nickelodeon

“Adam Beck’s How I Lost My Ear is a marvelously comic, wonderfully wise, delightfully imaginative and deliriously unpredictable epic adventure. The drama is high, the pathos is non-stop, and the comedy is as whimsical and witty as any to be found in the realm of fiction for the young. Although listed for pre-teens, it has much to offer readers of all ages. Adam Beck is a master storyteller and a master of invention, and How I Lost My Ear is un-put-down-able.”
—Rich Follett for Readers’ Favorite

“Wackiness that I love, and done so well. Such an enjoyable book.”
—Bill Harley, Grammy-winning children’s musician, storyteller, and author of the popular Charlie Bumpers series

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Adam Beck and Simon Farrow

For five weeks in the fall of 2019—from September 2 to October 9—I traveled from Japan to Europe to meet bilingual and multilingual families in person and interview the parents for a new book I’m writing that brings together a range of “success stories” on the subject of raising bilingual and multilingual children. Along with the 15 interviews I conducted in England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, and Italy, I’m now pursuing additional interviews with parents in other parts of the world via Skype. This series of posts shares some reflections from my recent travels. To follow my book project in greater depth—including the posts I wrote detailing my experience of each destination on my European tour—please consider joining me at my Patreon page and lending support to my work. (You’ll get some special rewards at the same time!)

Another special highlight from my trip was the opportunity to meet in person, for the very first time, the artist who worked so hard on the illustrations for my novel, How I Lost My Ear, a funny, action-packed epic for older children and adults that was published in January 2018. In fact, before we met, I had spoken to him only once, over Skype, and that was just briefly. Otherwise, we communicated through email: many, many, many messages over the full length of 2017 that ultimately resulted in a total of 136—yes, 136!—fabulous illustrations for the book.

The truth is, without his illustrations, I could never have fulfilled my highest vision for the story. I worked on the text for 10 years, and while I was finally satisfied with it, feeling that it was the best creative writing I had ever done, I also knew that the right illustrator could bring the playful spirit of the story fully and vividly to life. And from the very first illustrations he sent to me, I knew I had been blessed to find Simon Farrow.

How I Lost My Ear

How I Lost My Ear

How I Lost My Ear

How I Lost My Ear

How I Lost My Ear

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Great-Reading_Fifa

Want to read some engaging, widely-praised books this summer? Please take a look at my popular nonfiction and fiction for language-loving families! (Yes, bearded dragons included!)

“the ideal guidebook for parents”

Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids

Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability

“A pure gem! Adam Beck has created a truly wonderful and easily readable book that parents everywhere will enjoy and that bilingual families and children will benefit from.” —Dr. Annick De Houwer, leading researcher of child bilingualism and author of Bilingual First Language Acquisition

“Who but Adam Beck can tie together the complexities of raising a bilingual child with such wisdom, warmth, and wit? An in-the-trenches father, he shows how fun speaking another language at home can be. His work tells you not only the benefits and the methods, but delves deep into how to motivate both yourself and your child. He gives the percentages of success for the various bilingual strategies (One parent, one language: 74.24%), but for those who heed his advice, count on 100%.” —Christine Jernigan, PhD in foreign language education and author of Family Language Learning

“Not long after I started Spanish Playground, Adam Beck began writing his blog Bilingual Monkeys. As I read his early posts, I recognized a talented educator and a kindred spirit. His book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability was released last year, and since then I have recommended it often to parents raising bilingual children. Without fail, their reaction is ‘Thank you. This is exactly what I need.’” —Jennifer Brunk, longtime educator and founder of the popular site Spanish Playground

“If books are food for thought and if continuing to learn about bilingualism is an essential part of a bilingual parent’s mental diet, then Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability is nutritional superfood…the ideal guidebook for parents who are sure of their commitment to bilingual parenting but in need of ideas and ongoing inspiration.” —Michele Cherie, writer and founder of the blog Intentional Mama

“a master storyteller…un-put-down-able”

How I Lost My Ear
(a humorous, action-packed novel, for children and adults)

How I Lost My Ear

Look at this wonderful new review!

By Rich Follett for Readers’ Favorite, a book review website…

“Adam Beck’s How I Lost My Ear is a marvelously comic, wonderfully wise, delightfully imaginative and deliriously unpredictable epic adventure. In Boony Point, young Ben Boyd covets a pair of ruby red bongo drums, seemingly tailor-made for his superstar tryout for the Marching Moose – the town’s pride and joy. Never mind that bongo drums have not previously been seen or heard in the community’s iconic marching band; Ben is determined and has the most deliciously eccentric support crew in the history of children’s literature to help him reach his goal.

Along the way, Ben contends with a practical-joking grandma fixated on crab apples harvested with the dew still on them, a monster to slay, a mystery to solve, the twists and turns of his never-ending quest to be a Member of the Marching Moose, and his own deep-seated need to overcome his unwanted nickname: Butterfingers. The drama is high, the pathos is non-stop, and the comedy is as whimsical and witty as any to be found in the realm of fiction for the young. Although How I Lost My Ear is listed as being intended for pre-teen readers, it has much to offer readers of any age who are willing to allow themselves to be young at heart long enough to become swept up in the merriment. Adam Beck is a master storyteller and a master of invention, and How I Lost My Ear is un-put-down-able.

Simon Farrow’s playful illustrations are a perfect match for Beck’s unique storyline. They capture both the eccentricity of the characters and the absurdity of the incredible situations in which they find themselves, time and again. Adam Beck’s How I Lost My Ear is always fresh, always a surprise; in short, an ideal antidote for the mundane cares of ordinary life for readers of all ages.”

I hope you’ll read my books! And I’d be really grateful, too, if you would share your impressions with others through online reviews at Amazon and Goodreads and through word of mouth! Many thanks!

“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: Beatrice Beckmann

To successfully raise a bilingual or multilingual child, the main requirement is language exposure: the child must receive an ample amount of meaningful input in the target language (or languages) on a regular basis. And the more of this input you can provide, from yourself and/or from other sources of exposure, the greater the odds of fostering active language ability.

The two central pillars for providing this exposure are abundant speech (from you or from other speakers of the target language) and a daily read-aloud routine.

But when it comes to reading aloud, finding suitable children’s books in your target language may be a challenge. In fact, I wrote a whole post about this problem, in which I emphasized the use of “wordless picture books” as one way to effectively address it. See What to Do When It’s Hard to Find Children’s Books in Your Minority Language.

Well, one parent has come up with another creative solution, a winning idea geared for families in the United States with German as a target language. Beatrice Beckmann, a mother of two who moved to New York from Munich, launched KinderBooks in 2016 to provide families with direct access to German picture books and chapter books. With a subscription to KinderBooks, parents can rent and read appealing books on an ongoing basis, and thus strengthen their read-aloud routine and their children’s exposure to German.

When I learned about KinderBooks, it struck me as such a helpful resource for maintaining a steady stream of children’s books into the home…and it’s a shame that there aren’t (yet) more services like this for other target languages, too.

KinderBooks

And not only is KinderBooks an affordable solution—with subscriptions starting at just $10 a month (free postage is also included for receiving and returning the books!), Beatrice is kindly offering readers of this blog a $20 discount to try it out. Just use the promo code BILINGUALMONKEYS (valid until March 31, 2019).

Learn more about KinderBooks.

And learn more about Beatrice’s life and work by reading the interview below!

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We moved in August and I’m now gradually organizing the many books and papers that I’ve amassed over the 22 years I’ve lived in Hiroshima. One box contains the early board books that I read to my kids—who are now 14 and 11—when they were just babies and toddlers. I’m in the process of repacking the box, to store safely away in a closet, but I thought I might stop and share with you the 10 board books that I read most often to my children (hundreds of times each!) and that I hope they will one day read to their own newborns and thus begin the journey of handing down the minority language to the next generation.

While these books were originally published in English, I’m sure many of them have been translated widely into other languages and may also be available as larger-sized picture books. And let me note, too, that while I naturally have a sentimental attachment to these books, I’m not suggesting that these are the “best” board books for small children. While I would certainly recommend each one, this is simply a humble list of the board books that I read most often to my kids during those early months and years. (In the comments below, please share your favorite board books, particularly newer titles that I’m not so familiar with.)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
One of the most popular children’s books on Earth, from the brilliant Eric Carle.

The Very Lonely Firefly

The Very Lonely Firefly
Another lovely book by Eric Carle. The last page contains tiny flickering lights, like fireflies.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
So much fun to read aloud. As my kids got a bit older, they would even act out the story as I read it.

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Author Zita Robertson with one of her chickens

Two years ago, I shared a creative project that was carried out by Nellie Robertson and her two children. They live in the U.S. and Nellie is originally from Hungary, which means that English is their majority language and Hungarian is their minority language.

The project took place over the course of a full year and involved a stuffed alligator named Alfonzo, who they sent on a worldwide trip to enjoy “homestays” with a number of families (including mine!) who then reported on their experiences with their toothy guest.

Alfonzo the alligator

During this time, Nellie and her kids blogged all about Alfonzo’s adventures—in both of their languages—and the result was a wonderful project that was both very fun and very effective.

You can learn all about it, and see photos from Alfonzo’s “homestays” in various parts of the world, by reading this post…

How a Globe-Trotting Alligator Helped One Family Find Greater Fun and Success on Their Bilingual Journey

…and by visiting Nellie’s blog…

Alfonzo Around the World

Another creative project

Well, Nellie and her kids are back, this time with a fantastic book project that involved Nellie and her nine-year-old daughter, Zita. With Nellie’s solid support, Zita has written and self-published a book about her chickens, with versions in English and in Hungarian!

Dixie's Chicken Sisters in English

Dixie's Chicken Sisters in Hungarian

Full disclosure: Because Nellie and her family live just a short drive from my hometown of Quincy, Illinois, I was able to visit them in the summer of 2017! So I not only had the happy chance to meet Nellie and Zita (and the father and younger brother), I met the chickens, too!

Zita and her chickens

When Nellie told me about their new book project, this became something I was eager to share. As I’ve stressed before, along with persistent daily efforts—like providing ample speech in the target language, reading aloud, and pursuing a regular homework routine—language and joy can be fueled even further through the use of short-term projects: making videotaped interviews or “dramatic” films; creating a picture book or comic book; writing and performing a short play; singing and recording a favorite song (even making up your own); inventing a new game and playing it together; compiling a photo album and adding captions; pursuing crafts or a building task; researching and reporting on some subject of interest; and many more.

Here, then, are Nellie and Zita to tell you all about their bilingual book project. Many thanks to them both for generously sharing their lives with us.

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“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: Ana Cristina Gluck, Author and Publisher of Multilingual Books for Children

Have you ever thought about writing a children’s book?

I think this idea has crossed the minds of many people, particularly parents who read a lot of picture books to their own kids.

And some of these parents, of course, are seeking to raise bilingual children and so the book they imagine writing would be in their mother tongue, to help their kids—and other kids in the world—learn that language and appreciate that culture.

Well, one parent who has fulfilled that wish is Ana Cristina Gluck, a mother of two who is originally from Brazil and now lives in the United States. Ana Cristina, who has a background in graphic design and marketing, wrote the children’s book Minha Familia, in Portuguese, and this book has gone on to earn dozens of five-star reviews at Amazon from grateful parents.

In fact, that book is only one part of Ana Cristina’s larger success because she has created her own publishing company, ABC Multicultural, that produces a variety of children’s books in multiple languages. To date, ABC Multicultural has published 14 titles in languages that include Portuguese, English—and coming soon—German, Italian, French, and Spanish. (And if you enter the giveaway below, you’ll have the chance to win any 3 books of your choice!)

ABC Multicultural

Recently, I spoke to Ana Cristina via Skype about her experience as a writer and publisher, then followed up by email to pursue the interview below. Indie publishing is certainly a challenge (as I know personally!), but Ana Cristina’s proactive spirit is enabling ABC Multicultural to produce high-quality books on a regular basis and positively impact the lives of families all over the world.

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“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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