Article and Advice

Girl and woman readingHow can I develop my child's English-reading skills if I'm not fluent in English?

Dear RIF: Is there some advice, training, or models on how non-English-speaking parents and caregivers can use English-language books with their children and still feel they are helping their children?  ~Karen S., Seattle, WA


If you are a non-English speaking parent or caregiver, there are several ways you can share the joy of reading with your children.

First, try to borrow or buy the following types of books, which do not require fluency in English:

Native and translated books. Find books written in or translated into your native language.  For example, many classic children’s books are available in Spanish, from The Cat in the Hat (El gato en el sombrero) to Where the Wild Things Are (Donde viven los monstrous). This is a great way to develop your children’s reading skills, which Donde Viven Los Monstruoswill transfer when they read English-language books in school.

Bilingual books. Read bilingual books written in English and your native language.  Bilingual books are especially good if your children are learning to read English in school because you can enjoy the story in both languages.

Wordless books. Use wordless picture books like Changes, Changes, ChangesChanges by Pat Hutchins or The Red Book by Barbara Lehman. In wordless books, the pictures convey a story from beginning to end. The fun part is that you and you child are free to tell the story in your own words!

Books on tape. Go to your local library to find books recorded on cassette tape as well as the corresponding picture books. Enjoy listening to the narration on the tape as you and your child follow along by viewing the pictures in the book.

Second, if English-language books are easier to find in your area, use the book’s pictures to build your children’s literacy skills. Reading time is about more than just reading; children also enjoy looking at the pictures.  Choose books that have colorful and descriptive illustrations.  You can “read” the pictures, using them to makeup a unique story with your child.  This is a great way to build the vocabulary and storytelling skills that will help your children become better readers.


Advice for New Parents


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