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The Importance of Reading for Bilingual Multicultural Children

The Importance of Reading for Bilingual Multicultural Children | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Raising bilingual kids is nowadays becoming a common family matter, it is easy to find multicultural families around the world these days. According to research published on the website Trend, global migration has highly increased since the 1960s. People seeking a better life with financial and educational gains, resulting in multicultural families with bilingual or multilingual children.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Dayana M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

The Mix of Cultures in a Family

Multicultural families face the same kind of challenges as any other families in the world, however, they also have to deal with other issues related to family or culture traditions, religion, locations, language, among others. Deciding what language children should speak is something that parents are concerned the most, particularly when it comes to reading skills, considering that speaking skills may come naturally from being exposed to those languages.

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Why Reading is Needed

Reading to children has always played an important role in the development of language skills such as vocabulary knowledge and phonological awareness (the ability to recognize and work with sounds in spoken language). Bilingual children have two vocabularies and two types of phonology to learn, reading is the best tool to expand their knowledge in both languages starting at a very early age. Children are surprisingly perceptive and the sooner we start reading to them the better.

Children are amazingly capable to absorb language knowledge; research shows that they can learn to read and write in two languages at the same time, especially if both have a similar alphabet, but not exclusively. Parents should not be afraid of introducing texts on both languages, the fact is that this will be very beneficial to develop fluency and make kids stronger readers.

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Isn’t it Enough to Speak?

Some people might think that speaking to the kids in two languages is enough for them to be able to learn it properly; however, the vocabulary we use every day can become repetitive and limited. Reading offers us the possibility to enrich the bilingual kids’ vocabularies with words or phrases that they do not hear in normal conversations daily, plus if we provide them with a great selection of different topics that create interest, we ensure to instil a love for reading.

It is well known that reading improves listening skills, concentration and understanding. But there is one more thing in particular that we need to consider the most when it is about reading to multicultural children: reading enhances curiosity, this could be used as a great opportunity for parents to introduce books regarding their native countries and cultural roots. Having a clear understanding of where they come from can build up confidence and helping them to understand who they are, even when they are very young, a three years old child, for instance.

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Reading for Training Other Abilities

As it is the case of monolingual children, reading develops a child’s imagination and creativity, promotes brain development, teaches them to connect with their emotions and grow empathy. When a child can put himself/herself into the story and identify with the character, means he/she is beginning to understand and feel empathy by relating to other people’s emotions. Parents could also use reading as an opportunity to interact and bond with their children, asking them and allowing them to ask questions is important, we can encourage the use of the language that it is being used in the book.

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It is incredible to think that such a simple and easy activity like reading to our children, can bring real benefits to their lives. More than half of the world’s population speaks two or more languages in the present, the world is becoming more competitive and our children need to be ready for it, so we need to highlight the importance of reading in this process. Reading to our bilingual children is a great place to start that would lead them to succeed later in life.

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