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Raising a Bilingual and Biliterate Child: Relationships, Research, and Reassurance y ¡Adelante!

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Raising bilingual and biliterate students is a challenge. As the academic rigor increases in the program, families may become apprehensive and have many questions. Whether they are native speakers of the partner language or not, they’ll eagerly seek resources and support. Help families feel at ease by having responses to some of the most frequently asked questions, listed below, as their child begins a dual language program.

Question: “I don’t speak the partner language. How can I help my child with assignments?”

Answer:
There are many resources, both online and offline, available for families to use at home with their dual language student. Some resources you can provide families with are:

  • Lists of suggested titles in the partner language
  • Websites that offer online bilingual books (preferably read-alouds)
  • Links to online glossaries and bilingual dictionaries
  • Suggestions for translation apps
  • Announcements of workshops specifically geared towards caregivers of bilingual children

Create an online forum, such as a Google Family Classroom, or monthly virtual or face-to-face Q & A meetings for families to connect, especially with those whose home language is different from their own, in order to set up homework hotlines or virtual playdates where they can showcase each of their home languages. Encourage families to ask their child to explain the assignment in their own language and have conversations around the similarities and differences between the two languages

More than anything, encourage families to have fun learning a language alongside their child. Memory games, flash cards, language learning apps, bilingual story podcasts, and make-your-own board games are all ways families can connect with the partner language.

Question: “What can I expect to be sent home so I can remain informed?”

Answer:
As a teacher, provide ongoing communication whether through a weekly newsletter, online meeting, or monthly calendar, describing the topics that are being taught, and providing an overview of any assignments. Record any messages that might offer specific suggestions for emergent bilinguals and send them via text or email. The more information you provide families with, the less apprehensive they will feel about language learning.

Question: “What can I do to get involved with my child’s education?”

Answer:
Families must be made to feel welcomed and respected, regardless of any cultural differences that may exist. Keep in mind that in many cultures, involvement in a child’s education consists of simply providing them with the resources and environment they need to be successful.

  • Offer the following suggestions to families who wish to be involved in their child’s education: 
  • Attend school meetings whether online or face-to-face
  • Volunteer as a guest speaker or guest reader
  • Contribute to the school or class newsletter to introduce their culture to others
  • Take part in an organized phone list to help communicate information to other families
  • Ask questions. It's okay to not know everything, and asking questions is an important way to engage in the program.

Create family education opportunities to provide information about the educational system in place, the benefits of dual language, and the opportunities that exist at your school for their involvement. Foster home-school connections by recognizing the assets that families bring to the school and tapping into them throughout the year.

With encouragement and communication, dual language teachers can help families feel confident about their decision, and serve as a reminder of the incredible benefits of bilingualism for children. 

For more information on dual language and bilingual education, visit:

NABE.org
DLENM.org