As some of you may know we’re raising M and J bilingually. My husband, W, is Dutch and he and I met when we were both studying for PhDs in Linguistics so given our interest in language it was never really an issue whether our kids would be raised with one language or two.
For us, so far, it has all been very easy and a great deal of fun! W speaks pretty much exclusively in Dutch to the kids, and I do the same in English. English is also the community language (ie the language spoken outside the home by everyone else the kids come in to contact with), and it’s the language W and I talk to each other in.
Books, of course, have played a huge role in supporting our kids’ bilingualism – we try to have as many Dutch language books in the house as we can (and in particular Dutch language audio books) although we haven’t as many as we’d like because books in the Netherlands are much more expensive than in the UK (and the Euro-Pound exchange rate hasn’t been in our favour).
As well as books in Dutch, I’m always on the lookout for books which feature bilingual children (speaking any combination of languages), in order that M and J can see that they are not unusual and that being bilingual is fun and can bring great enjoyment. Such books are few and far between, but below’s a list of books which feature bilingualism in some form or other.
I have not read all of these books so I am going on reviews/blurbs available when it comes to ascertaining whether or not the books really do feature bilingualism as a theme. If you have read any of them and feel they are not appropriate for inclusion in this list, please leave me a comment to let me know! Most of the books on the list feature bilingualism as part of the immigrant experience. I have not found any books featuring bilingualism where that is the societal norm (as it is in parts of the world) – perhaps an inevitability given that I have looked only at books published in English.
About becoming bilingual as a kid having moved to another country
I Hate English! by Ellen Levine illustrated by Steve Bjorkman
My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Home at Last by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Felipe Davalos
Marianthe’s Story: Painted Words and Spoken Memories by Aliki
In English, of course by Josephine Nobisso
Dear Whiskers by Ann Whitehead Nagda (short novel, grades 2-4)
No English by by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Amy Huntington
La mariposa by Francisco Jimenez, illustrated by Simon Silva
About having a second language to keep in touch with a second culture
Too Young for Yiddish by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Neil Waldman
Playing Loteria / El juego de la loteria byRene Colato Lainez, illustrated by Jill Arena
Annie — Anya: a month in Moscow by Irene Trivas
Kids and families simply being bilingual
Yoko Writes Her Name by Rosemary Wells
Cooper’s lesson by Sun Yung Shin
Minutka: The Bilingual Dog by Anna Mycek-Wodecki (various language combinations including English with Italian / Polish / Turkish / German)
Pepita Talks Twice/Pepita Habla dos Veces by Ofelia Dumas Lachtman and Alex Pardo Delange (Languages: Spanish and English)
Abuela by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Languages: Spanish and English)
Isla by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Elisa Kleven (Languages: Spanish and English)
Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez (Languages: Spanish and English)
Kitchen Dance by Maurie J. Manning (Languages: Spanish and English)
Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book by Yuyi Morales
Just a Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales
I Love Saturdays y domingos by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Elivia Savadier
Faraway Home by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan
The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez by Rene Colato Lainez, illustrated by Tom Lintern
Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colon
Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! by Cari Best, illustrated by Giselle Potter
Alamo Wars by Ray Villareal (Novel, grades 6-8)
Bilingual children helping older relatives who are not bilingual / other monolinguals
Speak English for Us, Marisol! by Karen English, illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez
Grandfather counts by Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Ange Zhang
The Wakame Gatherers by by Holly Thompson, illustrated by Kazumi Wilds
Uncle rain cloud by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Fabricio Vandenbroeck
Class Mom by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Mike Gordon (early reader)
Halmoni’s Day by Edna Coe Bercaw, illustrated by Robert Hunt
A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler
I Speak English for My Mom by Muriel Stanek
The Walls of Cartagena by Julia Durango, illustrated by Tom Pohrt NB This is a novel aimed at young teens
Nonfiction books about being bilingual
Being Bilingual Is Fun! by Claudia Schwalm
Books about Language / with samples from multiple languages
1000 times No by Tom Warburton
What is Your Language? by Debra Leventhal and Monica Wellington
Baloney by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith
Yum! Yuck! A Foldout Book of People Sounds by Linda Sue Park, Julia Durango and Sue Rama
The Subway Sparrow by Leyla Torres
There are LOTS of books available where vocabulary from a second language is interwoven into the text (although there is no specific theme of language or bilingualism), particularly with Spanish as the second language but I have not included them in this list. Perhaps that’s for another day! There are also quite a few books in print dealing with being bi/multicultural which I have not included in this list unless they make specific reference to language issues.
In drawing up this list I’d like to thank everyone on the Rutgers’ child-lit list who chipped in with suggestions. If you have any more suggestions I would LOVE to hear from you!
Today’s post will hopefully form part of the next Carnival about Bilingualism, to be hosted by Bringing Up Baby Bilingual on July 1st. If you’re interested in “bilingualism, multilingualism, multiculturalism, language learning, language teaching, or raising children with more than one language” do head on over to Bringing up Baby Bilingual and see what’s on offer.