We’ve discussed a few good reasons for bi-literacy here.
Multilingual families exist in so many different contexts - sets of languages learned, level of proficiency of each, access to international/bilingual schools or language tutoring, motivation for learning. For the purpose of this post I’m thinking of parents whose kids go to local monolingual schools and who want to help their kids to read and write in the minority language at home.
Let me tell you, you have what it takes.
★ Lots of books
Is your home literacy-friendly? Do you have enough reading material in the minority language?
Different types of books, ebooks, magazines, comics, games, etc. Is there a library nearby? Are there storytelling events?
Yes, you can foster a love of reading and writing but sometimes it’s more a question of fostering a habit.
★ Knowledge of sound-letters and how children learn to read
Our brains were not made for reading. It’s a relatively new skill in the human evolution and it doesn’t just happen - like walking and talking. We need to train our brains to make connections between what we see - letters, words, sentences - and what they sound like and what they mean. It’s hard work.
On this post I described how you can start teaching your child to decode.
★ Time and dedication
As with anything that needs mastering, literacy demands consistent practice. But don’t feel discouraged even before you start! A little bit everyday goes a long way. You don’t need to teach your child for hours straight, just make sure you have a good reading habit and engage your children in different opportunities to read and write in their minority language.
As I said, reading doesn’t just happen and it definitely happens differently for different children. Sometimes it will feel like an impossible task, or a very slow one. Or you won’t understand why your child is not progressing.
Be patient. Stay consistent. They need time and support.
★ Resourcefulness and creativity
Try to incorporate learning in a variety of ways throughout your days: playing, singing, crafting, moving. The internet is this gigantic resource bank and with the right key words you can find anything.
★ Real opportunities for reading and writing
There’s no better motivation for learning anything than a reason to use it. The reason we all learn to read an write is to either access information or express it.
Make minority language literacy relevant for your family. Why are you reading? What do you write for?
You might like to read: How to sneak in English Literacy in your multilingual home
★ What you don’t need
A teaching degree;
Workbooks and piles of worksheets;
Fear of confusing your child;