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Big Breakthrough with My Bilingual Daughter?

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that one of my biggest challenges—and frustrations—has been getting my daughter, now 10, to read more in English, our minority language. Because my aim for my kids is high—I’m hoping to sustain native-level proficiency in all skill areas—this is made difficult due to the fact that they attend our local Japanese elementary school and don’t really have much time each day for reading and writing in English. I’ve done everything I can

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Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 2

Eighteen months ago, when my kids were 8 and 5, I offered a detailed look at our daily homework routine in the minority language, which began (gently) when they were around the age of 3. In that post—Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 1—I discuss the value of a homework routine for nurturing literacy and overall language development, and I provide a range of strategies and resources that I’ve found useful to my own efforts. (Many of these resources,

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What to Do When It’s Hard to Find Children’s Books in Your Minority Language

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

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Are Your Bilingual Kids Writing Letters in the Minority Language?

I’ll admit it: my kids have a love-hate relationship with writing letters. They love receiving them, but they hate writing them. I wish this wasn’t the case—it would make my life a lot easier if I didn’t have to expend so much energy getting them to produce these letters for grandparents and others—but I suppose it isn’t realistic to think that the average child under the age of ten would be any more enthusiastic about it. I mean, they love

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The Funniest Activity I’ve Ever Done with My Bilingual Kids and Students

This might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s honestly not: the activity I’ll share with you today often gets my bilingual kids and students laughing like mad chipmunks. And it hits the funny bone of a wide range of ages, too, from first graders to teens. (I’ve even done this activity when I was teaching at local universities, and these college students learning English as a second language—who were normally so shy and passive—would soon be seized by fits of

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Recommended Resources: Captivating Comic Books for English Learners

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

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How Comic Books Can Give Your Kids Bilingual Super Powers

My kids don’t really believe me—because I’m now such a nutcase about books and reading—but when I was a child, I actually read very little. Well, that’s not entirely true. I would avoid reading books—even when assigned in school—but I read all the comics I could get my grubby hands on. I read comics voraciously, and despite reading very few “real books” in my youth, the obsession I had with comics helped fuel my language development and my love of

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How to Use Poetry with Your Bilingual Kids (And Why You Should)

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

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My Favorite Way to Get a Bilingual Child Reading More in the Minority Language

See this? It’s our bathroom. Why am I sharing a picture of our bathroom with you? It’s not because I’m particularly proud of it. I mean, it’s nothing special, right? It’s a typical tiny Japanese bathroom, functional but not comfortable. And completely unheated, too, which means that when the temperature drops, it’s only human nature to flee to a warmer room as soon as possible (even unzipped). But my kids, bless them, they actually linger here in this cold, uncomfortable

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Recommended Resources: Word Games in the Minority Language

When people walk into my house, the first thing they usually say is: “Gadzooks! You have so many books!” (Okay, they don’t really say “Gadzooks!”—I’m probably the only one in this hemisphere who uses that expression—but they do show surprise at our overflowing bookshelves. On that note, I suggest a close look at How Many Books Do You Have In Your Home? for research and opinion on why building a good home library is so important.) The second thing people

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A Powerful Twist on the Use of Skype to Promote the Minority Language

In 3 Good Ways to Boost a Bilingual Child’s Language Ability and Loving Bond with Grandparents, I mentioned that we make regular use of Skype so my kids can connect in English, our minority language, with family members in the United States. As you would expect, these interactions have consisted of conversation about recent activities: school, free time, special events, etc. My experience, though, has been that the outcome of each Skype session depends largely on the “richness” of these

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