Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family: Chapter 3

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What bilingual or multilingual family is not at least curious about how to raise biliterate and multiliterate children? Yet it can seem like a daunting task. Helping our children speak another language may already be a challenge, how can we even begin to think about teaching our children to read and write in additional languages?

Here are some common questions from parents and caregivers:

  • How do I go about helping my child learn to read and write in our home language?
  • Should I teach my child to read in our home language before she starts school?
  • Is it better for a child to learn how to read and write in one language before introducing this in additional languages?
  • What about a child learning to read and write in languages with different written letters and scripts?

Lucky for bilingual and multilingual families around the world, Dr. Xiao-lei Wang has written a book just for us titled Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family which is even available for the Amazon Kindle Reader! Multilingual Living is excited to have the opportunity to publish excerpts from this informative book for the world to enjoy.It will give families around the world numerous insights into how they can help their children become biliterate and multiliterate.

You may want to start by reading excerpts from the first two chapters:

Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family: Introduction.
Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family: Chapter 2.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 3: The Importance of Active Planning.


Unique Characteristics of Multiliteracy Learners

This chapter examines the necessity and importance of active planning during the process of helping your children develop heritage language literacy skills in the home environment. You are encouraged to evaluate your individual situation carefully before rushing into home literacy teaching. You are urged to develop a home literacy teaching plan to guide your practice and use suitable home literacy assessment methods to monitor your children’s literacy progress. You are invited to use the ongoing self-reflection as an impetus to improve your home literacy teaching quality. At the end of the chapter, a set of activities and reflective questions are presented to provide opportunities for you to relate your own situation to the content discussed in this chapter.

Developing an Active Home Teaching and Learning Plan

The planning process in home language and literacy teaching is rarely discussed in the literature. This is probably due to the popular belief that home teaching is spontaneous and casual. Although the nature of the home teaching environment is not the same as the school environment, it is worth noting that unlike oral language acquisition, reading and writing is a learned ability, which requires more systematic and targeted efforts. Ms Andersson’s lament, ‘I didn’t really know what I was doing. I tried many things without a plan and direction . . . and I didn’t know where I was heading. I didn’t know how to get my children interested’, is a powerful reminder for us to take home teaching and learning planning seriously. In fact, research confirms that careful planning can lead to children’s successful multilingual and multiliteracy attainment.

A 4-step active planning process is proposed in this chapter to help you plan your home heritage-language teaching.

Stay tuned for chapter 4 of Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family, by Xiao-lei Wang. We will also be sharing many more posts the next few weeks about how to help your children learn to read and write in more than one language!

Dr. Xiao-lei Wang received her doctoral degree from the University of Chicago. She is a full professor in the School of Education at Pace University in New York. Dr. Wang is an interdisciplinary scholar. Her research covers a wide range of topics such as cultural parenting styles, effects of nonverbal communication in teaching and learning, multilingual development, and moral development. She is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences on child development and parenting issues, and has published extensively in academic journals. Her recent book Growing up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven focuses on the challenges and strategies of raising multilingual children.

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