50 of the Best Authentic Spanish Books for Kids

50 of the Best Authentic Spanish Books for Kids

Inside: Authentic Spanish books for kids.

While I love our stash of picture books in Spanish and English, I really like finding original Spanish titles. And authentic Spanish books for kids are not always easy to get! It’s taken some digging, but I’ve found quite a few treasures here. As a non-native Spanish speaker, I love knowing these books will expose my kids to that authentic voice and culture I can’t always provide.

Although some books listed here are bilingual, I looked for ones that were written in Spanish first, by a native author. Normally I like to include a little blurb about each title, but we’re still working our way through the list. I didn’t want to wait to share all of these with you! (more…)

3 Must-Own Books for Every Spanglish Home

3 Must-Own Books for Every Spanglish Home

Inside: Recommendations on books for bilingual families and raising bilingual kids.

I often start posts on bilingual parenting by describing the beginning: a new mom. Staring into my new baby’s eyes, hoping I wasn’t crazy to think I could raise him in Spanish. All those stacks of books for bilingual families I got at the library, the hours researching Spanish nursery rhymes. Raising my kids in Spanish felt like a daunting plan.

I didn’t expect to be at another crossroads so soon, but here we are! We’re about to switch continents, with two little ones in tow. We’re swapping our minority and majority languages, and I’m as full of question marks as when I held my first baby.

 

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Thankfully, I’m now surrounded by an online community of of writers and mentors. Life changes and family dynamics change, but I know where to go when I have questions. When I meet families, I know just where to point them. These three books for bilingual families are where I start; book you really need as part of your bilingual toolkit.

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Books for Bilingual Families

 

1. Bringing up a Bilingual Child

I’m a long-time fan of Rita’s writing. She’s level-headed and smart when it comes to sensitive issues, like handling criticism from other families, or balancing a driven approach with a happy family atmosphere. This handbook for raising bilingual kids is a perfect place to start, as you draw up a vision for your family. Here you can find answers to the most-asked questions and get guidance on setting up a language road-map for you family. You’ll want to bookmark her blog, Multilingual Parenting, as well. Rita offers the sage and calm voice that I so needed as a new mom, pouring over my library stash and wanting very much to know how to make this all work.

2. Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids

This book will probably make you smile; it will certainly make you think deeply and inspire your commitment to raising bilingual kids. Adam writes in the preface, “My aim, really, is to put you right in my shoes for a virtual experience of my own journey to date.” He writes as a parent in the trenches, and an educator who sees the big picture.

If Rita’s book is for the parents at the drawing board, this is the one to read with your morning coffee. Each easy-to-read chapter delivers a boost of “This is worth it!,” “You can do this,” and “Here’s how,”– a dense serving of wisdom and wit you’ll need all day to unpack.

The first half covers the perspective of parents. Half of good parenting is just working on ourselves, of course, and here Adam helps us explore our own beliefs, and habits. Five years into our language journey, I needed this. I needed to renew my sense of urgency, and I needed to re-examine our family practices. Without laying on the guilt, Adam reminds the reader that children’s exposure to language largely depends on the parents, and that everything we do matters.

The second half focuses on principles. Adam offers tons of concrete suggestions for making the most of the time you get with your kids. Here you’ll find practical ideas you can implement right away– from using books and games, to communicating with extended family, to storytelling and keeping language-learning lively. This is the kind of resource you can come back to year after year, as your circumstances change and you need to tweak your family plan.

What I love about Adam’s approach is that joy is the real target. He is a master of making everyday language fun; always reminding us that how our kids feel about home and language is as important as the language acquired through our years of work. Don’t miss his blog at Bilingual Monkeys either– there are tons of resources there!

3. Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie: Raising Bicultural Children

Can you believe there’s a book just for Spanglish families? There is! And it’s wonderful.

There are lots of books for bilingual families out there. Biculturalism is slightly different: What if my kids reject our heritage? How can I help them at school if I’m not fluent in the local language? How do I balance my childhood norms with the rules and expectations in the new culture?

Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie addresses these intricacies of raising bicultural kids, from a parent and writer who knows them well. Although it will be helpful for any family with hearts in two places, it’s an especially good resource for families coming to the U.S. with Latin American roots. Maritere eloquently captures the tension of loss (leaving home), and hope (making a new life, in a new place).

Available in both English and Spanish, Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie follows the stages of immigration and biculturalism– from the honeymoon period, to homesickness, to striking a balance between two cultures. Each chapter explores different aspects of family life: learning a new language, generational differences, advantages of biculturalism, and even going back home after many years away. Whether you are an immigrant yourself or just trying to pass on family traditions to your children, you’ll be able to find information and good advice.

This is the book for your nightstand, the one you pick up when you need guidance, or reassurance. I’ve been reading it while preparing to move our family back to Peru, as I leave my home culture. It’s helped me anticipate challenges, while also seeing all the good than will come, too.

I love that Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie reads as a partial-memoir. Maritere did extensive research to include stories from every imaginable background: from undocumented families, to well-known public figures. Some stories encouraged me and made me want to cheer, and some were a gentle reminder that circumstances will never be perfect. That ache for the other home might never go away, but it helps to know others feel it as well. And it helps to know that good, good things can come from this bicultural life, too. Read more of her writing at her website.

What are your favorite books for bilingual families? Did I miss a Spanglish family staple? Let me know in the comments below!

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50 Picture Books Every Spanglish House Needs

50 Picture Books Every Spanglish House Needs

Inside: Bilingual books in Spanish and English, for kids.

No Spanglish home is complete without a stash of bilingual books for kids in Spanish and English. Thankfully, there are more and more available now!

I often walk in the door exhausted after a day of teaching, to kids who have heard English all day. Even though my brain just wants a break, they need these hours to be in my non-native language. So we grab one of my childhood favorites, cuddle up under a blanket, and get the best of both worlds. And really, they’re not the only ones who need rich input. I do too!

I have a separate post of authentic children’s books in Spanish, with a focus on Latino culture. This bilingual lists includes book originally written in English or translated from a third language. (more…)

Nature in the Early Years

Nature in the Early Years

us together

“It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.”

— Charlotte Mason, Home Education (Charlotte Mason’s Homeschooling Series) (more…)

Why Bilingual Families Need Books

Why Bilingual Families Need Books

When I was pregnant with our first, I would confidently pat my expanding belly and share with friends our plans to speak Spanish at home. We were right to make this plan: our little ones simply wouldn’t get enough Spanish time only speaking with Papá, a native Spanish-speaker. If we truly wanted them to be fluent they’d have to hear it from me too. Because I really do enjoy speaking Spanish, what I’d forgotten to consider was my love for my native tongue, English. Along came baby, and I wanted to coo over him in English, the way I knew how, and sing the lullabies my mother sang to me. Speaking Spanish with my kids, while an amazing gift to give, was going to take more out of me than I’d considered.

 

books and a non-native mama

 

Being a monolingual or non-native speaking parent is quite unique. Sometimes I envy my Latina friends here, who know their kids will naturally pick up English and can relax into their native Spanish at home. But if bilingual children are in fact the goal, parents like me simply have to be intentional: we have to get creative, and we have to put in extra legwork. If you are a monolingual and don’t speak the target language you will be especially reliant on songs, technology, or other people. For me, as a non-native speaker, children’s books have been my saving grace, and here’s why:

 

1. Books help ME, as a non-native speaking parent.

As we read books in Spanish, my own vocabulary expands. Reading together takes the pressure off of me: we are still speaking in Spanish, but I am not having to think or second-guess myself. And of course, my language skills are being strengthened along the way. One of our current favorites is El mejor libro de palabras de Richard Scarry, which has even the tiniest of illustrations labeled in Spanish. When my son points to “diesel switcher” (“la locomotora diesel de maniobras,” obviously!) on the trains page, we both learn a new term. Although technology can be helpful, there is no substitute for reading to your children. It should be a focus if possible because the language is coming from you—it’s your voice, your intonation, your lap—even while you, thankfully, are getting a break mentally.

 

2. Books provide natural boundaries for fitting English into the day, too.

 

We are living with family right now, an interesting language situation. Everyone upstairs speaks English; here in the basement it’s our little family speaking Spanish. From what I’ve researched, it really IS important to have perimeters for language: when our family speaks which language, with whom, etc. At the moment I want to keep it simple and not constantly mix when it’s just us, though later we might flex more. Since there are certain stories and poems in English I want to share with my children, books seem to be the perfect, natural, boundary for that. When we open our board book of Robert Louis Stevenson poems, it’s English time, and when we close it we’re back to speaking Spanish again. Books give me space to share English literature near and dear to me, without creating the confusion switching mid-conversation might.

 

3. Books can be translated.

 

Thank goodness for this one, right? I always think good books originally written in Spanish are a great find, but most of the books I come across are translations. Some translations are badly done, but there are more and more classics coming out in a variety of languages. Sometimes I will translate simple texts like “the cow says moo” as we go (which is great for mommy or daddy’s brain!), but it’s much nicer to find books already in Spanish. Many of my childhood favorites I want to pass on are available in other languages. I insist on the original Goodnight, Moon because I prefer the more lyrical English version, but how fun is it to read El Cuento de Ferdinando in Spanish, as the story takes place in Spain? If you are very new to the language you’re teaching your child, familiar stories are great because you will get more out them.

 

4. Books create an emotional bond to the language.

Technology and flashcards may have their place, but nothing compares to the emotional and cognitive processes that occur in both of us when I cuddle up with my son and we get lost in a good story together. Reading a story we love, or a poem that sounds just right, subconsciously deepens our love for the language itself. My son loves Cinco Monitos Subidos a un Árbol  right now and squeals with delight every time we get to the “Krak!” part. As we read it (over and over again) he is forming an attachment to that story in Spanish. Children need to feel affection for what they are learning, if they are to learn it well.

Even though there is something of a loss for me in not speaking my native English at home much, it is not certainly not all sacrifice!– we are developing our family culture and adding to what we know and love. One day my children will sing our family lullabies and say silly rhymes with their children, too, with one lovely difference: for them it will be the most natural thing in the world to do so in two languages, not one.

 

This post was written as part of the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival, hosted by Maria Babin of Trilingual Mama.

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Spanish Mama

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Elisabeth Alvarado is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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