When we decided to raise our children bilingual, we also wanted them to be biliterate, though at the time we had not really thought about what that entailed exactly. We just thought we’d use their Majority Language (ML) reading skills to teach them to read into our 2 minority languages (ml).
In both instances, life brought me the unique opportunity to teach my daughters to read and write in English. It had never been planned, but circumstances simply compelled or offered me the opportunity to do it. Now, I will not go over the benefits I listed in “Biliterate or not biliterate, that is the question…”. Today, I would like to share about the actual experience of teaching your child to read in the ml.
The best things about teaching my children to read in the ml:
- It is a unique experience – It is an incredible project I had never thought of. With kids, you usually have short-term projects (apart from raising bilingual of course! 😉 ), but teaching them to read and write is a much more long-term project. It is very daunting at first, but as you get into the rhythm of things and see how your child progresses, it is very elating.
- It is extremely rewarding – The day I drafted this post, I witnessed my eldest writing away a story in English with few mistakes, and my youngest writing a long list of words to tell her own story. I felt deeply moved because they would never have been able to, had I not put myself through all this teaching process. It definitely is the greatest reward after them being trilingual.
- You learn so much from the experience – you discover the details of your ml pronunciation, discover rules you did not know or had forgotten about. It betters your mastery of your ml, and this is particularly enriching when you are not a native. Personally, I enjoy this thoroughly. As, I said, a language is like a plant: the more you nurture it the more it will grow and bloom.
- It can be great fun – teaching literacy involves loads of game playing and that is so much fun. I enjoy it very much and when introducing new games to my youngest, I am always a little nervous to know whether she will like it or not.
- You see progress for yourself – And that is simply so exciting!
- The teaching is adjusted to your child’s pace – there is no rush. That is the beauty of homeschooling. There is no pressure like in normal schools where the child has to keep up with the class’s pace.
- It becomes a ritual – As a parent, you usually spend a lot of time with your kids, but here we are talking of actually sharing a special moment together. To regularly take the time to sit down and learn together. It does feel special to pass on this knowledge and observe your little one blooming.
- It teaches you to think out of the box – In spite of appearances, it is in fact a very creative project. Looking for games, adapting ideas to your child’s needs…
The most stressful things about teaching my children to read in the ml:
- It is time consuming – looking up the information, resources, designing your own resources. I won’t lie, I spend a lot of time doing this though thanks to the Internet and the wonderful supporting bilingual parenting community on social media, I do get a lot of help and hot tips. 😉
- We ain’t perfect – we sometimes put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We need to remember to be kind with ourselves. At the end of the day, your child will learn to read in the ml, even if you blunder along the way because you are no teacher. 🙂
All in all, I find both experiences wonderful. I would definitely recommend it. With hindsight, I am glad I taught my daughters to read as I would probably have regretted not to. And with this same hindsight, I wished I had taught more Spanish phonics to my eldest, as I now see some little weaknesses in her spelling that are due to the fact we never properly taught them to her. Knowing that, I hope to avoid repeating this mistake with my youngest… 😉