That's what specialist reading therapist Laila Beidas does in her online clinic, a2zReading: she addresses the issues and helps her students overcome their difficulties.
Laila is also a bilingual mom of four! They live in the USA and speak English and Arabic.
I was born in Libya, and I’ve lived with my parents and siblings between Libya, Kuwait, Jordan and NYC because of my father’s different posts as a diplomat. I came to the USA 30 years ago when my dad was working with the United Nations in New York City. I got married in 1994 and moved to Los Angeles. My husband and I lived there for three years, then we moved to the East Coast. Currently we live in Alexandria VA, an urban community close to Washington DC metropolitan area. I have four children, aged 23, 20,18 and 13.
Did you raise your children bilingual?
Yes, I raised them bilingual English/Arabic . They were fluent in Arabic until they started kindergarten, then English became their first language.
How did you incorporate minority language in your daily lives?
Arabic became the minority language in my children’s daily lives because of school, cousins, friends, TV, after school activities etc. In order for us to incorporate it in our daily lives, my husband and I spoke Arabic at home, and even when my children answered back in English we would still talk to them in Arabic. One of the biggest advantages while my children were growing up is having grandparents visits, so they were trying to please them and talked in Arabic, and that was a big help.
What were your biggest challenges? How did you deal with them?
The biggest challenge was having my children read and write in Arabic, so my husband and I decided to get them a private tutor and they took lessons for ten years. I also would travel back to see my parents in Jordan and these trips made them aware of the importance of languages. My children speak, read and write in Arabic. They were introduced to Spanish and French as well at their schools. Two of my children took advanced Spanish courses at High Schools and they are semi-fluent.
What would you tell parents who hesitate about teaching their kids to read in multiple languages?
Based on my personal experience, it is important to introduce different languages to kids, and make them realize how fortunate they will be if they become bilingual or multilingual children, especially nowadays when the world is becoming more open and multilingual people have better opportunities than others.
Parents must be creative when they read in multiple languages. They should alternate between books, movies, songs and apps when they teach their children new languages to release pressure and insecurities. On the other hand, parents have to be accepting the fact that not all kids are capable of learning different languages at the same level. Accept their insecurities and confusions and don’t force them to speak the minority language(s) . It can cause problems of social anxieties and stuttering. Don’t give up, keep trying but not forcing. It will pay off one day.
In my opinion, it is more important to speak the language and be able to converse in it comfortably rather than reading and writing which will come with time. Also the roots of the minority language(s) can play a big role in the learning process. For example, languages like Arabic, Farsi, and Chinese have totally different alphabets and writing system than Roman and Latin derived languages.
What’s your advice for parents whose children are struggling with reading and writing?
Literacy is the door to success. It is the most important skill that children must master. Parents have to start reading to their children at a very young age, and make it as a daily routine in their kids’ lives. When children enter school, parents must be involved in their children’s homework and must be in contact with their schools.
When parents become aware of their kids reading struggles, they have to first diagnose the problem and if the child has dyslexia (a neurological condition) , or can’t read due to other learning difficulties, parents shouldn’t panic, but rather seek help from professionals. There are solutions to every problem, and with the right guidance and reading therapy sessions, the child will overcome his/her struggles and reach highest potentials. Keep encouraging your children, celebrate even the smallest improvement, be patient, and never make them feel down.
What are your favorite literacy resources at the moment?
a2zReading Clinic uses multiple literacy resources. I customize my sessions based on my students interests and needs. Books, song lyrics, educational apps, subtitled movies, biographies, YouTube videos are all great resources in addition to text and workbooks that are needed. The primary reading program that I use in my reading therapy sessions is Phono-Graphix. In addition I enjoy Scholastic stories for children and Raz-Kids website because it has multiple stories for all levels K-12 and each story is associated with activities. Another series I use a lot in my reading therapy sessions are one minute passages from Read Naturally program. It improves fluency and accuracy. Wordly Wise books are also great for implementing the strategies and make my students improve their self confidence.
Tell us about a2z Reading.
a2zReading Clinic was founded in 2015. It is an online reading clinic that offers help to overcome literacy struggles in English due to dyslexia or any other learning differences. I have a personal story behind my profession. My daughter struggled with literacy when she was young and I had to support her during reading therapy sessions . In addition, while I was raising my children, I volunteered in my community and became aware of how many children struggle academically due to poor reading skills. I decided to become a certified reading therapist. For years, I worked with struggling readers of different ages and abilities from my community and was thrilled of how successful they became. It was very rewarding to all of us. For that reason, I decided to share my expertise with a wider range of audience, so the idea of establishing a2zReading Clinic online was born. The number of struggling readers has been rising every year, and this service has a huge impact on children’s and adults’ lives. Being bilingual English/Arabic made me focus more on the Middle East market, but I have been teaching struggling readers from different states in the USA, UK , Malta as well as my local students and my Middle Eastern ones. E-learning is a fabulous tool and has multi benefits for both parents and children.
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