3 Reasons Reading Helps Your Child Excel in a New Language​


Laura Paquete


September 17, 2020

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” – Jhumpa Lahiri Maybe you’ve seen this quote before, in an Instagram post or inspirational poster in your child’s classroom. Chances are you’ve read it, thought about its motivational message, and moved on. Until now. At Brilliant Bilingual, we think this quote is particularly handy when thinking about why reading is a terrific tool for mastering a foreign language.

It’s all fun and grammar

There’s a reason teachers recommend reading with a dictionary by your side. Reading is one of the best ways to learn new vocabulary. Many of us can remember the book that taught us a specific word, despite having read it ages ago. When kids read in a foreign language, they discover new vocabulary naturally, making it easier for the new language to stick. Take a word like “refunfuñar,” which means to grimace. You could quiz yourself on that word for a month and still forget it, but never forget the time your favorite storybook character refunfuñió (grimaced) when he found out his parents were shipping him off to boarding school. 

Reading also makes learning grammar more fun and meaningful.  What was once a topic routinely drilled by lifeless worksheets and flashcards suddenly leaps off the page. Think about the difference between “the dragon will burn down the tower” and “the dragon burned down the tower.” Mix up the verb tense, and the princess is toast, but get it right and prince charming still has a chance! By inviting children to use their imaginations, reading engages learners by bringing the building blocks of language to life. 

Follow the patterns…

Right now you might be thinking alright, storytime is all well and good, but how will that help my kid order churros y chocolate during our family trip to Spain or chat with our neighbors from Argentina? Well, let’s revisit our fairy tale with the dragon and princess. The king, unable to help his daughter, asks prince charming to save her from the dragon. Our gallant prince replies “¡Desde luego!”, a fancy way to say “of course” in Spanish that can come in handy during almost any conversation. Real life learning tools like books are one of the best ways for kids to get to know speaking patterns and useful phrases in a new language. This allows children to incorporate the new language into their day to day lives, and most importantly, into their sense of self.

You are what you read

At Brilliant Bilingual, we know that your hopes for your child go beyond just learning a language. You want your child to become a bilingual world citizen, able to easily navigate between cultures and languages. Reading blurs the lines between cultures, giving your child the opportunity to place him or herself into a new culture and the shoes of characters whose reality can be quite different from their own. To help you find the right book for your child’s reading level and interests, we are sharing some of our favorite bilingual children’s books, all of which are avaliable on Amazon in both English and Spanish editions.  Whatever book your child chooses, they won’t just learn a language.  They’ll explore the whole world. 

So the thing about books? Yeah, they let us travel. But that’s just one chapter in a lifelong tale of learning.
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