The Bilingual Advantage: Helping Children Read in Both Spanish and English


Helping Children reading

The Bilingual Advantage: Helping Children Read in Both Spanish and English

We’ve all heard that education is key to helping children grow into productive and successful citizens, right? And they say that reading is a critical foundation, which allows for other learning. But what isn’t commonly mentioned, what might come as a surprise, is that reading bilingual books can be extremely beneficial to your young learner. If you’re wondering how to best help your bilingual child with reading so they can be prepared in school and in life, read on! After your child has a good grasp of phonics, follow these tips to help your child become a better reader.

Read to them

Read to them in both languages. If you want to strengthen their second language, focus more on fiction and non-fiction books in that language. The benefits of reading to young children is limitless. When you read to your child:

  • You create a bond together.
  • You build listening/language skills.
  • You build their imagination.
  • You increase their vocabulary.
  • You model what good reading sounds like.
  • You give them experiences/background for future reading and learning.
  • You reinforce that reading is an enjoyable activity.

Read bilingual books with them

Now, take a different approach and take turns reading with them. When you are reading, the child is listening to what advanced language sounds like. When you listen to your child read, you are able to get a good picture of where they are in their language development skills. This exchange of listening and deciphering can teach kids how to read effectively. They’ll learn that good readers:

  • Think about what is happening.
  • Predict what will happen next.
  • Ask questions as they read.
  • Stop if something doesn’t make sense.
  • Make connections to what they have read.
  • Summarize what they read.

Ask them questions

After your child has a basic grasp of reading in the second language, it is important that they don’t just read the words, but they also understand what they are reading. Some comprehension questions you can ask your reader are:

  • What can you tell me about what you have read so far?
  • Why do you think ___________ happened?
  • How would you have felt if __________?
  • Did that make sense? Go back and read again.
  • What is the problem in this book?
  • What did you learn from this book?
  • Did you like this book? Why or why not?

Use online resources

There are numerous resources available for you to help your child become a better reader. These are just a few examples.

Basic English Reading Skills:

Listen to Reading in English Websites:

Spanish Specific Resources:

Take advantage of the technology resources available to you! Ask your local librarians and teachers for more websites, apps, and high-quality bilingual resources—that’s their job, and most would be happy for more parent interaction. As parents, we all want our kids to excel. Becoming better readers in multiple languages will benefit kids now and in the future.

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