Reading progress

Just a quick post to update on our progress with reading in Spanish.

We’re working our way through these bilingual mini books from Scolastic, aiming for one per day. We usually only read the Spanish text but he wanted to do both for the video. I am now keeping them in the kitchen so we can read in the morning too. As you can see from the video, he’s made a lot of progress from just a couple of months ago. I am hoping once we’ve read all the mini books he’ll be reading for level 2 of Cati y Tomi.

So far my attempts to introduce other Spanish homework have not been very successful. He hasn’t wanted to complete any of the workbooks so I’ve decided to focus on daily reading for now instead.

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Resources for Spanish homework (age 5)

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I have recently introduced regular Spanish homework for S (5.5 years old) to complement the 1-2-1 lessons he’s been having once a week since he started primary school in September.  He can now read and write simple sentences in Spanish and my aim is to ensure his literacy skills continue to develop through 10 – 15 minutes of daily practise.

Our current homework routine takes places daily after bath time and prioritises his school reading books (two per week).  On top of that he reads a short amount of Spanish text to me daily.  We are currently working our way through two sets of bilingual mini books.

As well as reading, I have been collecting a range of workbooks and activity books for him to choose from.  I am starting by suggesting we complete one page of his choice per day – and I will report back later on our progress.

Here are the current resources we have (see photo above):

I’d love any other ideas. What resources do you use for your ml homework?

Establishing a minority language homework routine

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I’ve recently finished reading Maximize your Child’s Bilingual Ability by Adam Beck.  One of the main ideas behind his thinking is the importance of regular daily exposure to the minority language. If your aim is to raise children who are not just bilingual but also biliterate, then this also means daily reading and writing practice. And if minority language or bilingual schooling is not available – this means establishing an effective homework routine.

This advice particularly stood out to me S is now at school almost full-time in the ML (English). We have had permission this year to collect him early once a week for a 1-2-1 Spanish class focused on literacy,  and we are hoping the school will allow us to continue this arrangement. However. is education is, and will always be, overwhelmingly in English.

Since starting school over six months ago S has started to use more English at home especially when recounting his school day. He will mix languages, mainly starting in Spanish but adding in words or phrases in English. However he’s still strong in the minority language and thankfully starting school hasn’t made him want to stop speaking Spanish at home.

Aware of all ML exposure he’s getting at school, I’ve been thinking about increasing the amount time we spend on Spanish reading and writing and not just relying on his weekly lesson.

S is now in his final term of his first year at school and we’ve settled into a good routine for his school reading homework.  This is how our daily after school routine looks (at least this is what we aim for) :

  • 4.20pm – PLAY –  Free play, inside or outside
  • 5pm – VIDEO – The children watch videos in Spanish while I cook dinner.
  • 5.30pm – DINNER – We chat about the school day and sometimes I read to them in Spanish while they’re eating.
  • 6pm – BATH.
  • 6.30pm – HOMEWORK
  • 7pm – PLAY – Free play with Daddy.
  • 7.40pm – BEDTIME  – Bedtime stories and to sleep

As S is in Reception is only school homework is reading. He gets two books per weeks which take about 15 minutes over two to four days to complete.  We’ve recently incorporated daily Spanish reading books (ie he reads to us) into our homework session. Now S is able to read short sentences in Spanish he is also reading a short mini book or a couple of pages of a longer book as part of this routine.

My aim now is to slowly add in some Spanish workbooks and other literacy activities on top of the reading book, still keeping within 30 minutes for the whole homework session (both English and Spanish).

My next post will discuss some of the resources I am planning on using for this homework session.  I’d love to hear any suggestions? What are you using for this age group?

Creating a text-rich (minority language) home environment

I was recently recommended a book by Adam Beck called Maximize your Child’s Bilingual Ability. Although when I was pregnant with S and in the early baby days I read quite a few books about bilingualism, it’s actually been a long time since I’ve picked up a book on this topic. The reviews suggested it was full of practical tips, activities and suggestions for bilingual families – perfect. That’s just the type of book I could do with.

I’ve just looked back and found a blog post from May 2013 where I complain about the books I found being largely theoretical and their focus on the benefits of bilingualism rather than being the ‘how to’ guide I was looking for. Since then I’ve also read Bilingual is Better which focuses on the Latino community in the US.

I haven’t read whole of Adam’s book yet but one of the ideas that really struck me was about captive reading – providing lots of small opportunities for reading by exposing your children to a home environment rich in ml text. I noticed when we were in Spain earlier this year how S was automatically drawn to all the text surrounding us in the street on shop fronts, adverts and signposts. He also learnt to spell his full name quite soon after we stuck wooden letters on his door. I had also been thinking about buying some Spanish wall-charts too – although we may end up making some ourselves.

As S is starting to read in Spanish I though this was an excellent idea and we’ve already started experimenting. I’ve stuck up whiteboard stickers around the house and also found a white pen for writing on glass. I’ve been writing lots of different messages for my son – using short rhymes and jokes to write as well as leaving personal messages like ‘don’t forget to brush your teeth’ in the bathroom mirror. S has even started wanting to write me messages himself so it’s become a stimulus for both reading and writing in the ml.

Spanish books for learning to read – a video review

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Finally, after a lot of research, I’ve now found and acquired several sets of books for beginner readers. None of them are perfect but together I think they’ll get us through the initial process of learning to read in Spanish. They are: Cati and Tomi, My First Bilingual Little Readers and 32 Cuentos de la A and la Z. Here’s a short review both in text and video. I decided to use video because if you’re me you’ll want to see inside the book before buying – something that’s tricky when buying online from abroad.

Cati y Tomi

This is a series of 12 books for beginner readers. I was attracted to these books as I like the way they are graded into three levels with progressively longer texts. They also have questions at the back to check the child understands the story, and stickers which are always popular. So far we have read all the level 1 books, although S hasn’t been keen to reread them (as suggested). On the down side. you have to buy them individually (there’s no pack available), the stories are sweet but aren’t particularly interesting and nor do the illustrations excite. The first level has text in both capital letters and cursive, but levels 2 and 3 are only in cursive. As S is only learning print at school he struggles to read cursive text. We are therefore on hold before starting level 2.

My First Bilingual Little Readers

This is a black-and-white book with tear-out pages you can cut and fold to make mini books. It is published by Scolastic and is obviously marketed at teachers working in bilingual programmes in the US. The main advantage of these little books are the short, easy to read, repetitive texts on a wide range of topics. They are also written in print, which is rare for Spanish learner books. S also likes to colour in the pictures as we do the reading together. They are also very economical costing only £8 each. The only downside is the format is not very durable, but I will endeavour to keep them for when E is learning to read. Having completed level 1 in Cati and Tomi, we are now focusing on these mini books. I have also bought a similar title, Easy Bilingual Nonfiction Mini Books.

32 Cuentos de la A a la Z

This lovely set of books is my favourite. S is using these books with his teacher in their 1-2-1 lessons. There is a story for each letter sound; this attracted me as I wanted to ensure we comprehensively cover all the letter sound combinations. So there’s a book for A, and M and S, but when it comes to C, there’s one for CA, CO, CU and one for CE, CI.

The stories are fun and engaging with brilliant illustrations. They also have questions and activities at the back of the book to check comprehension and extend the learning. I also like that you can buy them all in one pack! This doesn’t seem to be a common thing in Spain.

The only disadvantage (except for the price – eek!) is that they are in cursive text – although we’re so lucky as S’s lovely teacher has printed him out versions of the texts in print and stuck them into the books for him. The texts are longer and more complicated than the two other series mentioned above, so I am planning on completing the others with him first. In the meantime I have been reading some of them to him as well.

I’d love to hear about any other reading books for beginners. Do share any recommendations. Thanks

Establishing regular reading in the minority language

Since S started school in September last year, we’ve tried to get into a routine to encourage daily reading practice. He has two school books to read per week, so setting aside time every evening, has meant we’ve been able to do a little bit of reading each day. Establishing this habit has had a really positive impact and he’s now reading confidently in English and more importantly he’s enjoying it. All this focus on school reading however has meant reading in Spanish has been a bit left behind.

I’ve wanted to set aside time for regular Spanish reading for a while now but came across several barriers:

  • a lack of time (due to school reading books),
  • a lack of appropriate resources (simple books and texts)
  • a lack of motivation (he was hesitant and didn’t want to try reading in Spanish).

Luckily, I think we’re now at a point where we’ve got over these issues. I’ve finally got a good and varied selection of beginner reading material, S’s recently gained confidence in his Spanish reading ability through games and other activities and has chosen to read books in Spanish with me. As also importantly, now he’s more fluent in English, he’s able to finish the school books more quickly. I am hoping this will give us more opportunity for some Spanish reading.

To encourage this emerging willingness to read in Spanish, I’ve made a couple of wall charts. The idea is that he gets a sticker for every completed book, and when the race or chart is complete he can choose a treat.

Tell me about your ideas for incorporating regular reading in the minority language in your daily routine.

Loving musical books (in Spanish)

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When my son was a baby I avoided books with sounds – I thought they were just like noisy toys and a distraction from reading.

However I’m now a bit of a convert. I particularly love this series Mi Primer…. which introduces classical composers to children from 12 months. We picked the first one up (Beethoven) during our trip to Granada in February, and since then I ordered the Mozart one too!

The board book format works really well, the books are robust, small and easy for little hands to carry. The integrated buttons are simple to activate and mean the book doesn’t require a large side panel making it much more practical for toddlers.

Each page has a short amount of Spanish text and a short music extract – see video below. E loves these books! She can independently make them play music and loves to dance along! Let’s hope they bring out one with Spanish or Latin music!

Do you use sound books for the minority language? Although I love the music, I’d love to find some with more Spanish spoken audio.