On the surface, it seems that bilingual families have a balanced speaking culture in their household; that parents and children converse in their native language and are able to switch to the language of the locality when the need arises.
Here’s the truth: “balanced bilingual” is a rare case in the multilingualism realm. Parents and children have different levels of fluency in each language. Parents are not often able to or comfortable with using books of non-native language when reading to their children. This means that while children may keep up with using that language in their academics, they find it difficult when carrying out informal conversations.
Bilingual books and other multilingual materials are a great way to address these issues. The advantages of providing your children with bilingual books and reading these with them go beyond just improving speaking skills…
These books help improve the extent of learning
Childhood is when the learning and memory aspects of the brain are pretty flexible.
When provided with children’s books that consist of two languages, not only do your kids learn languages more fluidly, but have stronger neural connections, and can excel in the studies faster than their peers.
Vocabulary builds to the right levels
As if often happens, bilingual children have a much smaller vocabulary in one language than their peers. Their combined vocabulary may be the same, or maybe even greater, but individually, they fall behind.
“Playground language” does not consist of the same elements as academic language—but bilingual books do. These books expose your children to a second language’s concepts in a way that makes studying easier.
Bilingual books help eliminate alienation
When most of the stories and illustrations in books your children find in their schools and libraries focus on other cultures, they may feel alienated.
Conversely, bilingual books represent the norms and values they’ve grown up with, and thus make them feel involved.
These books also eliminate social barriers
By combining two languages, two cultures, bilingual books can help your children enjoy learning about cultures other than their own, and be more accepting of them.
For children who have troubles with social interactions at school or around the neighborhood simple because they don’t “get” the other cultures, bilingual books are a wonderful way to encourage them to interact, and interact well.
And finally, bilingual books are a lot of fun.
Reading is fun. It feeds a child’s creativity and imagination unlike anything else.
Reading a good bilingual book that comprises the right balance of two languages and cultures and beautiful illustrations—such as those in Yan Li’s Chinese-American personalized story books for kids—can be an entertaining activity.
Li’s books include stories about people and nature, and make for pleasing and educational learning resources.