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.
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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Elisabeth, thanks so much for recommending my book! I hope my work can continue to be a source of encouraging support to you and to others. (My very best wishes go with you and your family as you head into this next stage of your journey!) Along with my book and blog, my forum, The Bilingual Zoo http://bilingualzoo.com, is a warm, lively community for “keepers” of bilingual and multilingual kids and freely open to everyone.
I fully agree with your impressions of Rita’s book and blog, too, and continue to recommend her work highly.
While I haven’t read Arroz con Pollo and Apple Pie yet, I now look forward to it! Thanks for suggesting Maritere’s book.
I send my best bilingual wishes to all!