I was encouraged to write this four-book series of easy-read bilingual books by a friend in Texas who is not bilingual but who generously and creatively fosters literacy by putting bilingual books in the hands of children who need them.
In this series, readers meet the Rosas family: Isabel, Tina, Danny, Mom, Dad, and Abuelita. They meet the family’s dog, Tico, and the family’s new kitty too. The books depict children’s daily activities: a family meal, chasing a kitten, bedtime, and a boy’s mischief.
“How do you honestly feel about bilingual books?” I asked a group of teachers. A woman raised her hand and answered, “They intimidate me.” I remain grateful for that teacher’s candor. Others chimed in saying that they shared her reluctance to use such books. “I’m the teacher,” one said. “I’m supposed to be the expert. I wish I knew Spanish, but I can’t read half the book.” The group then discussed how our monolingual-Spanish students also can feel embarrassed and wish they spoke and could read and write English. Indeed, in our linguistically-rich country, it isn’t only Spanish-speaking children and families who have those longings.
The attendees shared the following ideas:
- Since we believe that books are powerful and shape attitudes, we can affirm our Latino and Spanish-speaking students by incorporating bilingual books into our school and library collections and by using the books for read-alouds and activities.
- Since we teach by example, when we leave our linguistic comfort zone and risk beginning to explore and maybe even learn another language, we teach our students, whether monolingual or bilingual, to do likewise.
- Instead of avoiding bilingual books, we can partner with bilingual parents, older students or colleagues and illustrate the wonder and fun of languages through collaboration. We can also listen to and use audio books.
- Our students, all our diverse students, need brave teachers.
How sad I feel when I hear educators state that their ideal students are white, European-American children. All students need their teacher’s attention and faith. Celebrate and creatively educate all of America’s diverse and beautiful children. Remember my Texas friend who spreads bookjoy and puts bilingual books in the hands of children who need them? Join her.
Pat provides some background on the My Family/Mi Familia series and talks about the difficulty of selling bilingual books. Video provided by WETV's ¡Colorín Colorado!: