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Creative Ideas

The Importance of Stories and Storytelling in Raising Bilingual Kids

Stories and storytelling have long played a central role in my efforts as a parent and a teacher of bilingual children. Human beings have an innate interest in hearing stories, and I try to take advantage of that natural tendency by “flooding” the child’s world with narratives in the minority language. By increasing the amount of stories heard, and the forms in which those stories are told, a parent or teacher can enrich the child’s exposure to the target language—which

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Your Tips for Supporting the Minority Language of Older Bilingual Children and Teens

Today I’d like to follow up on my last post, What to Do When Your Bilingual Child Won’t Speak Your Language, with a concern raised by Aneta Nott-Bower of Bilingual znaczy dwujezyczny, a great blog for Polish speakers who are raising bilingual children. It seems some of her readers are wondering about older children and teens: This is a key issue—and one I can already sense I’ll be facing in the future with my own kids—but at the moment it’s

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How Images Will Stimulate Your Child’s Bilingual Development

Last Saturday I took my kids to a photography exhibition at a local art museum—over 400 photographs of all types of subject matter from an association of Japanese photographers. I actually stumbled across the event on Friday while riding my bike home from the library. As I was curious, and the exhibition was free, I popped inside by myself and quickly realized that it offered a prime opportunity to engage the English side of my children’s bilingual ability—even though there

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How Messages in the Minority Language Can Boost Literacy (and Much More)

Today is Roy’s last day of kindergarten—and tomorrow morning is the “graduation” ceremony. In April, he’ll enter first grade at our local elementary school. (The school year in Japan begins in April and ends in March.) It’s hard to believe our time at this kindergarten (really, a combined preschool-kindergarten for ages 3 to 6) has come to a close. Both Lulu and Roy spent several happy years there—from the start of Lulu’s enrollment to Roy’s graduation, the school has been

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“Daddy Is Dangerous”: A Fun, Effective Word Game for Bilingual Kids

Lately I’ve been playing a funny little game with my kids. I call it “Daddy Is Dangerous.” (Feel free to rename it “Mommy Is Magical,” if you like. ) It’s a simple game—all you have to do is print out the PDF file I provide in this post and grab a pair of scissors—and if your children are from about 4 to 12 in age (the developmental stage known to experts as “the silly years”), I bet they’ll enjoy it.

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How Fighting Like Furious Monkeys Can Benefit Your Bilingual Kids

Something happened on Sunday morning that I’m eager to share with you. I was taking a shower when I began hearing some loud clomping sounds that went on and on, for a good five minutes. Because we live in a townhouse—our unit is downstairs and a family of noisy neighbors is upstairs—I first thought it was their little boy, who’s often romping about like a pony above our heads. But when I finally stepped out of the shower, I realized

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Turn Your Kids into Eager Readers with This Fun, Simple Strategy

One important challenge that parents of bilingual kids face, once the children have attained a basic level of reading competence in the minority language, is encouraging independent reading so they can reach higher and higher levels of language ability. It’s vital, of course, to find regular time to read aloud to your children, and read alongside them, taking turns, but the more a child can be persuaded to read on his own, too, the more progress he will make in

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Why You Must Put a Whiteboard in the Bathroom

What animal is big and gray, has a long nose, can fly, and makes a buzzing sound? The last time we traveled back to the United States to see my family, in 2008, I made an interesting find in a school supply store: a pack of “self-stick dry erase sheets,” like large stickers that can be affixed to the wall and used as a whiteboard. At the time (Lulu was then 4 and Roy was just a year old), I

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Today’s Appetizer: Daddy — How to Boost Literacy (and Love) at Lunchtime

One simple strategy that I’ve faithfully pursued during the preschool years is “Bento Notes.” (In Japan, a “bento” is a boxed lunch.) Preschool here starts at 3 years of age and ends at 6—with no separate year for kindergarten—so that means three years of these little lunchtime notes for both Lulu and Roy. Early on, I tried producing the notes one by one, each morning, but that quickly proved tiresome and the idea was nearly derailed. So I sat down

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The Busy Parent’s Guide to Cloning Yourself

According to one of the better guides to raising a bilingual child, called, well, Raising a Bilingual Child, the amount of exposure needed in the minority language is about 20 hours a week (at a minimum) to enable the minority language to keep pace with the majority language. In other words, if the exposure your child receives in the minority language is less than 20 hours a week, maintaining a balance between the two languages could prove difficult. The majority

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What Is Captive Reading and How Will It Help My Bilingual Child?

Captive reading is a strategy for increasing a child’s exposure to reading material. Because exposure to print is at the very heart of raising a bilingual child with good ability in the minority language, captive reading can play an important role in boosting this exposure. As a rule, the more exposure to books and other texts a child receives, the stronger that child’s language ability will be, in all skill areas. Captive reading is essentially the “captive audience” approach to

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