Reading Aloud

English: Interesting Story

An Interesting Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first started writing this blog, I posted a number of reviews of books that we were reading to our son.  I had envisaged this being a regular thing, perhaps every couple of weeks or so.

I soon stopped because, although we have a lot of books in both Portuguese and English, we accidentally developed a core of about 15 books or so that we would read again and again.  These were books that we as parents lie, but also that Mr. T, our son, also liked.

It is no secret how important reading aloud to your children is.  We have been reading to Mr. T ever since he was born and it is one of the best parts of the day.  Even without the educational benefits that come with reading to our son I would be loath to give up this exercise.  Recently, however, we have been seeing some of the fruits of our pleasurable labour in his language as well as just finding the time to bond.

Reading to himself

One of the joys of the last few weeks has been to see our son getting a book out from under the bed and reading it.  Obviously, at 2 and a half he can’t actually read, but he does do a good impression of it.  He sits up in bed with his legs crossed and opens the book at the first page.  He then babbles away to himself about what he can see in the picture before turning the page and doing the same thing again.

I love to see this.  Apart from it being funny to watch it also means, hopefully, that we are well on the way to encouraging Mr. T to see books as a natural thing to use in his free time, and not just something that has to be picked up because you are told to.

T

T for Mr. T (Scootie)

Reading letters

He has learnt to recognise the letter ‘T’ and he can even write it now thanks his vovô showing him how to do it on a blackboard.  Whenever he sees the letter ‘T’ he shouts it out with wild abandon and repeats it just to make sure that we saw it as well.  He has started to recognise some of the other letters in his name as well as the letter ‘A’.

We are not trying to push him to read letters as I know there are grave doubts about trying to do this at such a young age.  However, he is very interested in letters so we encourage him to do it so long as he wants to.

Learning language

One of the main reasons to read aloud to a child is to help their language learning, and this is perhaps especially important for a bilingual child as it is a great opportunity to provide further exposure in a minority language.  One of the most favorite books in our house is ‘The Gruffalo‘.  It is so beloved by all of us that we have been reading since day 1.

A couple of weeks ago, as my wife was reading it to him before bedtime, he started to say some of the words at the same time as my wife.  Over the next couple of days we encouraged him to do this more and now he can say practically all of the end rhyme words throughout the story.  He has also started to do this with other books that he has heard practically all his life.

At the moment he only really uses these words when the book is being read, not in his every day life.  But I am sure that this shows he is aware of more words than he is using and that pretty soon he is going to be ready to start producing even more vocabulary.

Children's books

Children’s books (zetson)

Future Reading

I am aware of some disagreements over how to teach bilingual children to read.  Some people say you should teach them to read one language at a time, others that you can teach both together.  I’d love to hear people’s experiences in the comments sections below.

Further Reading

There is of course some wonderful material out there on the internet about why parents should read to their kids and how to go about it.  3 blogs that I have read and found particularly motivating are:

Bilingual Children: Why reading is important from multilingualparenting.com

My Favorite Way to Get a Bilingual Child Reading More in the Minority Language from bilingualmonkeys.com

Teaching a Multilingual Child to Read and Write from expatchild.com

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8 thoughts on “Reading Aloud

  1. The problem I have with my son is that he can never sit still when we read to him – sometimes he would grab a book, shove it in our lap, and after two pages, turn around and grab another off the shelf. I can probably count on a single hand the number of times we have gone through an entire story.

    Reply
    • We have been through a phases like that as well. One trick that we used was to let him go and do whatever he wanted, but to for us to keep sitting down and readoing aloud. Eventually, and usually, he would come back to us to see what were reading.

      Reply
  2. Do you and your wife each read books to your son in a different language or do you both read books in English and Portuguese? I kind of want to read our son some of the books that I read as a kid, but I speak to him uniquely in Welsh so may have to rely on translated versions if I’m going to do this.

    Reply
    • I only ever read in English because, as the minority language I think it is important that I remain more or less consistent. My wife picks and chooses depending on the book and mood. Sometimes she will translate on the go, sometimes it’s just in English.

      My mother-in-law only ever reads in Portuguese, so when Mr. T asks her to read a book that is in English she just describes the pictures and makes up her own story.

      I don’t know what is best for you, but maybe at this stage you should try to be consistent. You might even get a job translating your old favourite books into Welsh!

      Reply
  3. Hi Stephen, we live in Madrid, Spain. My wife is Argentinean and I’m English and we both do story time before bed in our own native languages. Our boy Tom (2.5yrs) loves it and interacts more or less the same in both languages. We find even if we’re tired if we inject a good bit of enthusiasm he connects to that and we all enjoy the time together.

    Reply
  4. This was a sweet post! I actually just commented in today’s Booknificent link-up that we are stuck with 2 books at the moment! Reading them each about 20 times at a sitting! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday! Hope to see you again this week!
    Tina

    Reply

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