With our children we have seen two very different cases of becoming biliterate. Emma learned to read on her own in Finnish when she was four and, with a little help from our part to motivate her to do so also in her minority language, French, some six months later. The picture above shows Emma in her natural habitat at the age of five. Still today, she regularly bumps into lamp posts as she reads while she walks, and misses her bus because she has her nose glued to a book. Despite the fact that I’m obviously scared to death that she will walk under a car one day, her extensive reading in both languages has positively influenced many parts of her life. Her French and Finnish vocabularies are very large and she really seems to have a deep, rich understanding of both her languages and cultures for her age. This makes it very easy for her to talk about many topics with family and friends in both countries and to go to a bilingual school.
For Sara, 7, the journey to biliteracy has been, and continues to be, very different. Like her sister, she figured out the straightforward letter to sound correspondence in Finnish on her own a few years ago. However, she showed no interest in pursuing this ability any further. She loved to listen to the stories that we read to her, but preferred to play with her dolls or with her friends when on her own. This has definitely contributed to her very fluent oral skills which (and I’m only comparing to describe the situation to you) surpass those of her older sister in some aspects in both languages. I love the fact that my children are different and I try not to force things that I like on them. Yet, truth be told, I would love for Sara to discover reading. I guess the fact that I’m a teacher who loves reading might have something to do with it. No shoving it down her throat, though, just gentle attempts to make it easy for her to discover the world of literacy (and in our case biliteracy) at a suitable pace.
Therefore, I would like to invite you all to join me in making year 2013 the year of biliteracy! Let’s share our best tips and ideas for helping our children to learn to read – and want to read! – in both (or all) their languages! Feel free to comment ideas here or join us on our FB page: http://www.facebook.com/bebilingual.net