The ABCs of Multilingual Parenting: The Letter S

by Corey · 2 comments

S is for…  Stories

As we all know, there is nothing more captivating than a good story! Adventure and mystery, romance and poetry – a tale told well will captivate even the most stubborn of audiences. Who can resist?

When is the last time you told your children a good story in your language? Or read to them from a chapter book in your language? Have you been able to find good books that finish each chapter with a cliffhanger? One that leaves your children begging for more? If it has been a while, then it is time to change that.

If you want your children to want to read in your language, then you need to be the one to read to them, even if they have already hit puberty! Find good books that will send your children spiraling into the magical world of imagination and fascination. Show your children just how wonderful your language really is by captivating them with stories that transport them into another world.

I can still remember my mother reading The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books to me and my brother, even into our teenage years! In fact, they are some of my treasured memories from my childhood even though at the time I didn’t always want to be read to. I am so glad that she insisted and that we stuck with this tradition!

What are the classic books in your language?

Here are some tips on getting started:

  • Your childhood stores: Our children are fascinated about what we were like as children. Were we stubborn or obedient? Did we do silly things and get into trouble? Or maybe we were the teacher’s pet. Share stories with your children that help them get to know more about you. The bonus is that they will also be hearing you use your language and talking about your culture). It’s a perfect way to strengthen language, culture and family bonds.
  • Your favorite stories: What were your favorite stories when you were a child? Get your hands on these books again and read them to your children. Maybe you can find them online and can print them out into your very own book? Your excitement about reading these stories now that you are an adult will pull your children into the fun. Make sure to tell your children how much you loved the stories when you were young and how much these stories changed your life.
  • Your children’s favorite stories: Which stories are your children most interested in these days? Even if your children can read the stories themselves, insist on read them out loud together. Snuggle together on the sofa and make story-time at home one of the best times of the day. The key will be finding these books in your language. It may mean doing some Amazon searches or asking family back home to send specific books that your children are interested in.
  • Brand new stories: Go with your children to the library or a local bookstore and pick out a book together that you will read out loud. If your library or bookstore don’t have books in your language, then sit together at the computer and do a search online to see what you can find. The key is that you and your children will be making the choice together and therefore will have a vested interest in the whole experience. The excitement that will come from a package of books arriving at the door will be electrifying!
  • Write your own story: Sit together once a day for a certain period of time and write a story together in your language. Start by discussing possible storylines, characters, location, time period, etc. and then decide on how to go about writing it. Maybe your child will dictate the storyline to you? Or maybe you will both come up with the storyline together while one of you writes it down? Make sure to decide if it will have illustrations or not (some children can really get into this part!).
  • Read it right: Make sure to get into the characters and tempo when reading out loud. Use different sounds for the voices and a dramatic voice during intense sections. For even more tips on reading stories out loud, read Bilingual Books: Read Them Out Loud! at the Language Lizard blog. The tips at the end should be able to get you started with your story adventure.

No matter how you go about reading (and maybe writing) stories out loud to your children, make sure that you do it with love, attention and dedication. This shouldn’t be done halfheartedly after a long day at work. It should always be seen as a special time with your children, a time that you look forward to (even if you are tired out). Your children will never forget these wonderful moments spent together.

We are going through the alphabet one letter at a time, multilingual-style! Join in the fun and add your own ideas, suggestions and tips in the comments below that begin with today’s letter! Check out all of the ABC’s of Multilingual Parenting posts so far!

Corey Heller is the founder of Multilingual Living and the Editor-In-Chief/Publisher of Multilingual Living Magazine. Multilingual Living is the place where she shares her knowledge about raising multilingual and multicultural children. Corey, an American, and her German husband live in Seattle where they raise and homeschool their three children, ages 14, 12 and 10, in German and English.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jaime August 16, 2011 at 7:12 am

Too often low income bilingual parents are treated as if they have nothing to offer their children academically. I agree that sharing family stories is a great way to build oral language and family pride!


2 Corey August 18, 2011 at 3:14 am

I totally agree with you, Jaime! We often forget how easily we can share our language and heritage. Our children would often rather her our stories of childhood than any book – and that’s free too! 😉


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