Raising a bilingual reader can seem like a daunting task as a parent. Indeed, you might be surprised that it’s actually way easier than it appears! Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t just magically happen. Raising a tiny human who loves reading and values books and storytelling takes patience and commitment. This is especially true if you are trying to raise them bilingual. Here are some tips to get you started:
Let’s start with the basics first! One of the most powerful ways in which you can encourage your children to pick up a book is by keeping up with your own personal reading habits. Leading by example is key. I know, parenting can take a massive toll on your reading time. But regularly picking up a book or magazine throughout the week – even if it’s just to read 5 pages – will indicate to your child that reading can be a daily activity and will make them want to model that behaviour. Bonus points if they see you switching between books written in different languages or bilingual editions.
Create daily reading rituals with them! Whether it’s reading in the afternoon after school or including time in their bed time routine to curl up with a book before sleeping, you want to integrate reading time as part of their natural daily routine. This can be adapted throughout time as they grow up and learn to become independent readers.
Part of them becoming independent readers is letting them discover what they enjoy, so allowing them to choose what to read and the way they want to read is key. With that comes letting them leave books unfinished and letting them jump between stories. Reading should feel fun and intuitive to them, rather than a forced activity or as an extension of their school work.
Encouraging them to read in whatever language they find most joy in is essential when developing their interest in reading. This can often be whatever language they speak outside of school. The National Literacy Trust has concluded from a recent report on multilingual reading attitudes in young readers that ‘for many, reading in a language other than English opens up a world of reading, with 2 in 5 (40.2%) of those who say that they generally don’t enjoy reading enjoy reading in their other language’. So if your child is struggling to enjoy reading try switching up the language that you are reading in. It might make the world of a difference!
Have a variety of books available around the house and create a reading-friendly environment for them. These two go hand-in-hand. Facilitating access is fundamental in raising a bilingual reader. This can be achieved by organising regular library trips, placing the books with their covers faced out and at eye-level so that children can reach for the books themselves, placing a reading light next to their bed or, if you are feeling really creative, creating a cool reading nook in one of the corners of the house. This also means making sure that they have books available in their different languages so that they are in contact with stories written in both languages.
What methods do you follow to encourage a reading habit at home? How do you make sure that your child is in contact with their two languages when reading? Let us know!