Reading with children in a native language is key to bilingual learning

Sylvia Espinoza reads with her daughter Edith. Studies have shown why it's important to read books written in the same language that is spoken at home. (Josh Szymanik, KSL-TV)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY – Reading with your young ones every day is one of the best ways to build connections in their brains and with family. Studies have shown why it's even more important to read books written in the same language that is spoken at home.

Sylvia Espinoza turned reading with her daughter Edith into valuable time together.

"Edith has always like to read in Spanish, so she's always asked me to read with her in Spanish," Espinoza said.

Finding children's books in her native language had been a challenge until now.

Building a Spanish language library

"Through a lot of donations, this is how it came about," explained Flor Isabel from United Way of Salt Lake.

They built and installed a little Spanish language library in front of West Kearns Elementary School.

"It was a lot of work at first," Isabel said. "It was like a little house, casita on the bottom that just lay on the ground."

Through months of hard work and community support, she collected nearly 200 books to fill the library along with other donated material.

"Bilingual flashcards, bilingual books, sometimes some games. And it all is just going," she said.

The thought behind the project has to do with something called second language acquisition theory.

"Which pretty much states that children who learn to read in their native language will have less of a challenge learning a second language," she explained. "Additionally, there are skills that will get transferred so when they're learning math, it's easier as well."

Isabel said making sure families in the community have that opportunity is important. "It should be accessible and fair to everyone to be able to read with their children."

Connecting with family history

She added there's also a cultural benefit and more opportunities that come with speaking two languages.

"You can get a job, you can help others and really carry on your roots which is something that they really value," she said.

It's something Edith recognized. "I get to like, understand more what my mom says. And like, when I go to Mexico I can speak more with family," she said.

Sylvia expected that the more she reads with her daughter and the more kids in the community take advantage of these books, the brighter their future.

She said, "In the future, they can have more opportunities if they are bilingual."

For more ideas and resources on how to get reading with your child in your home visit 5B45.com.

Ashley Moser

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