Monday, June 10th, 2013
How Should We Teach Reading to a Bilingual Child?
Teaching Reading to a Bilingual Child via lshutterstock
Dear Dr. Gupta,
I have a five-year-old girl who is fluently bilingual. I think she may be French dominant since she speaks to her little sister in French but her English is above average as well so it is hard to tell. I am anglophone and her father is bilingual but his first language is French. He speaks only French with the children and I speak only English. She has always attended school and daycare in French and most of her friends are monolingual francophone. I live in Quebec but on the border with Ottawa so almost all people are bilingual.
I started teaching my five-year-old to read in English at four just because she showed an interest. She picked it up quickly and loved it. Then she showed off her new skills to her father who quickly panicked that she had learned to read in English but not French and started trying to teach her to read in French. It is much harder because you have to learn syllables and not letter sounds. She became frustrated and discouraged and refused to read altogether. We gave her a break from reading since I realize she is still very young and it is not important to push it at this stage.
I think the main problem is we both went to English school and learned to read in English so even though he is a francophone, he does not really know how to teach reading. I on the other hand have taught kids to read English before and I am usually the one who teaches them things as I enjoy teaching. I had planned to teach her to read English and let the school teach her French but my husband is very competitive and protectionist of the French language. There is a lot of politics here surrounding the French language so most Francophones here think kids will pick up English from Sesame Street but you really need to protect the French or it will die out. That is why the French mommies only teach their kids French until they are six because they want them to learn French really well then let them pick up the English since they will need it to work anywhere here.
My question is this. Is there an easier way to teach French reading? Should I insist my husband back off on pushing the French reading as she will learn this in school next year anyway to rekindle her interest in English reading? This is very frustrating for me because we were having so much fun before. Now she refuses to read even cat, which she knows without thinking about it.
© 2013, Anthea Fraser Gupta. All rights reserved.
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