My top five book recommendations for parents
If you’re looking for an excellent book to learn more about raising bilingual kids, start with one of these! Full of research-based advice, inspiration, and practical ideas, these books will get you off to a strong start in your parenting journey. What’s more, they’ll give you the tools and encouragement you need during difficult times.
My oldest child was born almost eight years ago, and since then it seems like I’ve never stopped reading parenting books. I have three kids now who are truly my passion and my joy, and I take my role as their mom very seriously. However, if I’m honest, they are constantly throwing me for a loop as they change and grow. I believe parenting is the hardest work there is! Many of the parenting books I’ve read over the years deal with positive parenting techniques, parenting with logic or grace, even fostering strong sibling relationships.
However, as a bilingual educator who loves teaching languages and literacy skills, bilingual parenting books fuel me. They inspire me to stick with our minority language of Spanish at home (especially as a non-native speaker)! These are my top five favorites that I highly recommend. I hope you’ll give one a try!
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by Kendall King, Ph. D. and Alison Mackey, Ph. D.
This has been my very favorite book on raising bilingual kids. I’ve recommended it to many friends and fellow parents! If you’re only going to read one, or are picking which one to start with, this is my top choice.
Written by two professors of linguistics, this book provides the research-based information parents need about bilingualism and language learning. It is for all parents who want their child to be bilingual – those who speak another language and those who don’t! It covers topics such as when a child should start learning another language (it’s now, by the way- it’s never too late or too early) and how children benefit from being bilingual. You’ll also discover specific ways you can best promote language learning at home.
I particularly appreciate that this book includes “Fast Facts” and “Spotlight on Research” sections throughout the book. You will learn so much about optimizing language learning for your child. But what I like most about the book is that it is structured and written for real parents – not researchers or experts on the topic.
You’ll find practical strategies and tips to help you choose a second language for your child. What’s more, you’ll learn how to find materials and programs to help your child achieve fluency, and identify strategies that fit your family to maximize learning.
by Naomi Steiner, M.D. and Susan L. Hayes
“I’ve never met a parent who regretted raising his or her child bilingual-even those that may have had some doubts in the beginning.” (P. 31)
This amazing book will both guide and inspire you as you dive into bilingual parenting. Written by a developmental-behavioral pediatrician (Steiner) and a parenting writer/editor (Hayes), it is full of insightful information for parents. It has a step-by-step approach that will walk you through determining your language goals for your child. You’ll learn where to find bilingual resources for your family, and how to plan for common hurdles on the journey.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the section of practical tips and advice on creating a family “Bilingual Action Plan.” Being intentional about your goals and plan for providing language input for your child is extremely important. This book provides different scenarios and ideas for picking the right method for your family based on current research and your goals. I also appreciate as a bilingual educator that there is a chapter devoted to reading and writing – including 11 “Tricks of the Trade” for reading to your child in both languages.
“Reading leads to increased vocabulary and better understanding, which in turn leads to greater facility and enjoyment when using the language. Reading is considered to be one of the main ways we are exposed to and learn new words in any language.” (P. 130)
by Barbara Zurer Pearson
“Raising a Bilingual Child” is a go-to book for parents who are looking for information, encouragement, and real advice on raising bilingual kids. Dr. Zurer Pearson is an expert on bilingualism and linguistics and is a Research Associate at the University of Massachusetts.
In this book, you’ll find everything you’ve wanted to know about learning languages and the benefits and myths of bilingualism. If you’d like a more in-depth and educational read, this book is full of research about child development and language acquisition. It will be like taking your own course on language development!
Inside you’ll find concrete strategies to promote your child’s bilingual language development – including an amazing table of twelve steps to do so. Some of the steps include making the second language especially rewarding (think fun songs, new books, praise, and repetition). Or, using media like books, videos, and music. Taking advantage of bilingual education and giving the language value outside of your family are two more steps. You’ll also find interesting case studies to think about what strategies will work best for your family.
“It is important for you to have a positive attitude and a belief that what you are doing is possible so that you do not doubt yourself and start giving up slowly after having convinced yourself that it is not worthwhile. When you have an emotional commitment to the second language, it makes you want to overcome all hurdles.” (P. 218)
by Adam Beck
Adam Beck is a parent and educator who founded the bilingual parenting blog Bilingual Monkeys. In his book, he shares everyday ideas and real-life inspiration for any parent who wants to raise a bilingual child. I found it to be a down-to-earth guidebook full of quality information, tips, and motivation.
The book is broken up into two parts: 30 perspectives and 30 principles. The perspectives portion shares “ways of thinking.” If we want to maximize our child’s bilingual ability we need to prepare, learn about language acquisition, and become inspired for the journey. Each chapter ends with a “quick takeaway” to summarize the key lesson.
One of my favorite perspectives was “persistent efforts add up over time.” Taking advantage of daily routines and small, steady efforts with your child add up to substantial progress over time.
The second half of the book explores 30 principles or “ways of acting.” These are specific, actionable strategies for supporting your child’s bilingual language development. A few of my favorite principles (that I often recommend to parents as well) were to “ignite your child’s interests” and “talk, talk, talk to your child.” Each principle/chapter is short and to-the-point, giving parents quick inspiration and ideas.
“…in the end, the more language exposure you stimulate, and the more enjoyable that exposure is, the more proficient your children will ultimately become on this long bilingual journey.” (P. 158)
by Stacie Nevadomski Berdan and Marshall S. Berdan
If you’re looking for a bilingual parenting book oriented toward professionals, “Raising Global Children” is my most textbook-like recommendation. Written by an international careers expert and author (S. N. Berdan) as well as a travel writer and teacher (M. Berdan), it was published by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).
This book was written for educators and parents who want children to be ready to thrive in a global society. It’s about opening our children’s eyes and minds to the big, wonderful world. The book explores teaching languages, exploring cultures, learning through travel, and helping prepare kids of any age to have a global mindset.
Of course, my favorite section of the book is on teaching languages. The authors explore why we need language education and the benefits of second language learning. They also give advice on encouraging language learning at home (with anecdotes from real parents). The cognitive, personal, and lifelong benefits are innumerable!
“These benefits appear to apply to children of all ages, races, ethnic, and economic backgrounds, with some of the strongest benefits coming for children from disadvantaged families; in other words, foreign language study also has a demonstrated ability to help close academic achievement gaps.” (P. 67)
What other bilingual parenting books have you found helpful? I’d love to hear!
I hope that my short insights into these excellent books help you pick the right one for you! Each of them gives parents the necessary research base and advice for raising a bilingual child. They also provide tools and motivation for when you need it most! While it won’t always be an easy journey, raising a bilingual child will most certainly be worth it.
Find your balance,