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Guide to using 'Bilingual Books' with children !

Children’s books play an important role in children’s literacy development because they offer opportunities to expand children’s awareness beyond their own places, to see reflections of themselves, their own culture and experiences, and invite them to build bridges to cultures unlike their own. High quality books written for children can lead to cross-cultural understandings, and can foster empathy and new perspectives (Botelho & Rudman, 2009).

The Carrot, the Burdock Root and the Japanese Radish
にんじんとごぼうとだいこん (えいごのじかん)
(English - Japanese)

Children's books can be further categorized under multiple heads. However, today I am going to discuss in this blog-post 'Bilingual Books for Children' and they are a great tool to add to your family bookshelves. So let's first acquaint ourselves a little with this amazing teaching & learning aid.

What are Bilingual Books?

Daddy’s Hands ―おとうさんのて

Bilingual books, are also known as dual language books or books written in two different languages. However, these books may not contain literal word to word translation but the intent of the story is communicated as accurately as possible in both the languages. These bilingual books are usually available across genres and age groups, including classics and picture-books in fiction and nonfiction. 

These books can be used: 

  • to maintain native language,
  • to build vocabulary & foster bi-literacy,
  • to develop metalinguistic ability (ability to notice the different features in different languages), and
  • to provide culturally relevant experiences for children.

You may watch the following video 👇 to see some Bilingual Books. 

Currently, we are using some 'English-Japanese' and 'English-Hindi' Bilingual Books. Since, Ms. A is learning Japanese and Hindi is our Mother Tongue (though she is not learning the same in school, however I am trying to read some fun stories to her).

How do I read a bilingual children’s book?

One Parent One Language should be the 'MANTRA' in which each parent (or carer) speaks to the child exclusively in one language. For example, a bilingual family where father speaks to the child only in English or the native language and mother picks the language other than what father opted for. The choice could vary as per the parent's comfort and convenience and also the specific language skills which the couple aims to develop in the child.

Further, it will be very important that if you are the parent or carer that always speaks in English or the Native Language, your role will be to always read the story in English or the native language. In addition while reading ensure to point at the illustrations, objects and characters. Try to incorporate some fun elements of voice modulation or some repetitive actions.

Ask your child questions like: 
  • recall the title of the book,
  • sequence the story into Beginning-Middle-End, 
  • count the characters in the story,
  • what will happen next etc. 

In case you do not have physical copies of Bilingual Books handy, you may choose to use some digital resources and 3 of my personal favorites are:

1. StoryWeaver by Pratham Books

On of the most easily accessible free resource is StoryWeaver by Pratham Books . This resource has almost 20000 stories in 235 languages and across various Reading Levels. So, what are you waiting for go checkout the website.

2. Audible Stories from Amazon

Currently due to the COVID - 19 pandemic and as long as schools are closed, this resource is free. Right now, children everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages. All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.

Explore the collection, select a title and start listening.

3. Epic Books

Epic! for Educators is the leading digital library for kids 12 and under. It offers access to thousands of high-quality children's books, including read-to-me, audio books, and learning videos. Epic also offers, personalized recommendations for each student based on their reading level and interests, while teachers can assign books and track individual reading progress, create collections of curated books and learning videos to share with students and colleagues, and assess students' understanding of books by creating and assigning quizzes.

I hope my inputs would be of some help to you. In case you have any questions pertaining to this topic, please leave them in the comment section and I would try to respond as early possible. Till then enjoy READING !