I love to read, especially on the beach. Our recent family beach trip was spent reading many books, including about 6 on bilingualism. I wish I had read them sooner! It would have saved me so much trial and error with what we’re doing at home.
When my kids were toddlers, I just assumed we’d put them in French immersion when they were old enough for kindergarten and I wouldn’t have to worry about being the primary source of bilingualism for them. That plan changed when we decided to homeschool them. I spent a lot of time looking for books on homeschooling in French immersion, but found none. It never occurred to me that there were many people in the world raising their kids bilingually and the process didn’t necessarily have to be tied to homeschooling (oops). It also never occurred to me that many of the strategies for teaching a second language are not specific to French. Turns out that searching for strategies on bilingualism in general gave me a lot more results. I’m sharing my 3 favourites with you.
The Bilingual Edge by Kendall King, Ph.D. and Alison Mackey Ph.D.
Bottom line: This book was my favourite out of all the ones I read. It had the right mix of background theory and practical suggestions. It’s definitely worth reading if you’re at all interested in having your child learn a second language in any capacity. The desired second language doesn’t have to be French and you don’t have to be aiming for bilingualism to make this book worthwhile.
The book starts off by explaining the advantages of being bilingual. I didn’t need convincing, so I skimmed this section, but it still had some interesting points that I hadn’t considered. Being ever practical, my motivation for teaching my children a second language has mostly been for future career prospects. I remember how a second language helped me get more interesting and lucrative part-time jobs while a student. It also opened some doors for me in my career that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to go through. I want the same for my kids. This book opened my eyes to the many other benefits of bilingualism in terms of expanding cognitive ability and cultural awareness.
The second section talks about the benefits and drawbacks of introducing a second language at different stages of a child’s development. I loved that it gives specific ideas for possible activities at each stage. Obviously the approach to introducing two languages to an infant is much different than for a teenager and this book has tips for both.
The third section has some detailed activity suggestions, and the fourth section discusses possible obstacles including naysayers. Has anyone told you your child would be better off learning only one language at a time? This book has research to refute that nonsense.
Overall, this book was a good mix of practical information and background theory of language acquisition. It gave many example situations and follow-up exercises that provided much food for thought. I’m so glad that I read it.
7 steps to raising a bilingual child by Naomi Steiner, M.D.
Bottom line: This one was my second favourite. It was the quickest read of the 3 mentioned here, so if you want only practical steps with no background info in the fastest way possible, choose this book.
Some of the information presented in this book was already covered in The Bilingual Edge (which I read before this one), but there were additional tips that made me glad that I read both books.
This book discusses how to raise bilingual children when you are monolingual, which is a common question that people ask. It also provides ideas and links to specific resources, which could be useful.
Raising a Bilingual Child by Barbara Zurer Pearson, Ph.D.
Bottom line: This was my third favourite (but keep in mind that I read 6 in total). It was the most comprehensive in terms of background information and research. If you’re looking to justify your bilingual decision to naysayers (or family members!), this is the book you want.
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