boy in gray jacket reading book

Multilingual Reading and Vocabulary Development (An Appetizer)

Any observant parent knows that most children like having their favorite stories read and/or told to them over and over again. There is something about the familiarity of the narrative and the predictability of the text that children find soothing. In fact, many times children memorize these stories and recite them with their grownups as the stories are told.

What some may find odd, however, is that the repetition of the same stories over and over can actually lead to an increase in vocabulary development over time (despite a decrease in the exposure to overall words) because repetition leads to repeated exposure; and, repeated exposure leads to mastery. Want an example? Think of the hook to a favorite song. I’ll wait here. How many times is it repeated in the lyric? Is it running in your head over and over? You’ve mastered those lyrics haven’t you?

In a multi-lingual household, you can use that repetition to your advantage. Telling the story in two languages, for example, can help you build vocabulary in both languages simultaneously, while at the same time maintaining familiar guideposts for the child.

So, if you want to develop vocabulary in two languages simultaneously, why not try reading the same story in two languages over the course of a week? Picturebooks are good sources for such an activity as they provide short, discreet stories that are accessible and entertaining. Here are some things to think about when engaging in the activity:

  • Ensure that translations are accurate.
  • Point out the use of cognates when applicable.
  • Use animated reading, stopping to point out areas of particular emphasis (Undoubtedly there are things that are better said in one language over the other. Do not be afraid to express a preference.).
  • If there is an error point it out. Yes, editors and publishers make mistakes.
  • Pick stories that are of interest and relatable to the child (not only age appropriate, but of interest).
  • If you are unfamiliar with a word, look it up.
  • If the stories depart from one another, figure out why: was it artistic language in the translation? Was there no other translation avenue available?
  • Give some thought to translation nuance. Would a translator from a different country who speaks the same language have translated things differently? Here is a clip from two very different translations of the now current Barbie movie. This clip is definitely not intended for kids. [Spanish Translation of Ken Scene]

One of my favorite publishers, Nube Ocho, frequently does English and Spanish versions of titles that are perfect for helping to develop vocabulary. You can often find Italian versions as well! I’ve summarized and listed a few of their latest offerings below. They are each wonderful stories. Enjoy them with your little ones!

Squirrel Has Trouble Saying No (Ardilla No Sabe Decir Que No)

What happens when you are a people pleaser and are always stuck doing stuff for others because you just cannot say “no?” When Squirrel wants to make Bear a present, squirrel has to learn a lesson in being assertive.

Amazon en Español: Ardilla
Amazon in English: Squirrel
Independent Bookseller English: Squirrel

Little Person (Pequeña Persona)

A lovely, little, poem-like story about being a child. Nothing less, nothing more.

Independent Bookseller Spanish: Pequeña
Independent Bookseller English: Little

¡Soy un Principe! (I’m a Prince!)

Easily my favorite of this bunch–our hero, a pig finds a crown in the grass and decides that he wants to be a prince that is worshipped by those around him! Those of us raising a little prince (or princess) can easily relate to this one. Fortunately for all, the pig discovers the value of simply being himself.

A joyous road to self-discovery and finding one’s self-worth!

Independent Bookseller Spanish: Principe
Independent Bookseller English: Prince

Hay Una Vaca En Mi Cama (There’s A Cow in My Bed)

What happens when your child does not want to go to sleep? Every, single excuse in the book. I thought I had heard them all. I hadn’t heard about the cow, however.

What happens when the cow is in YOUR bed?

This story ends with a twist.

Amazon en Español: Vaca
Amazon in English: Cow
Independent Bookseller English: Cow

Una Caja (The Magic Box)

What is inside the box?

Will we find out?

Do we need to know?

Do we already know?

A mystery that never stops being a mystery.

What happens when siblings are given a box and asked not to open it?

Amazon en Español: Caja
Independent Bookseller English: Box

My thanks to Nube Ocho for providing Review Copies of these Books. All opinions provided herein are my own.

More books for this Age Group can be found here and here.

Please, leave comments! I love a HEALTHY exchange of ideas. After all, critical thinking is essential to life.

*When something is purchased using one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission. We do not accept any monies for any editorial reviews. Our opinions, to the chagrin of many, are our own.

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