A Secret Superpower
Many children living within the United States are quietly growing up with a very special gift: they can speak and understand two languages! Often, these are little Latinos/Latinas whose parents speak Spanish as their native language, and they also attend an English-speaking school.
In a perfect world, this phenomena would lead to generations of perfectly biliterate and bilingual children, who can serve as fearless leaders, helping those around them to communicate more effectively.
So what’s the issue?
A Missed Opportunity
Throughout our years of working and partnering with Spanish-speaking community members at Language Matters, we’ve listened to countless accounts of individuals who grew up speaking Spanish, but who no longer feel confident in their language skills- least of all in their abilities to read and write in their native language.
Many have expressed that they are now hesitant to speak the language with loved ones, and often that they never learned to read or write in Spanish well in the first place. While they would love to be able to interact in the two languages equally, they feel like they’ve missed an opportunity.
Spanish as an Academic Language
There are several factors contributing to this dilemma; for example, children in traditional school systems are spending hours each day in an environment where Spanish is not spoken or prioritized.
But we know that some children who grew up in English-speaking schools have retained their Spanish successfully, and become biliterate. The difference for these accomplished bilinguals? At some point in their lives, they were taught that Spanish is an academic language too.
The Bilingual Book Project
Spanish-speakers who see that their bilingual abilities are encouraged and celebrated in academic environments are much more likely to invest in their Spanish reading and writing capabilities! And helping young ones discover a love for Spanish literacy isn’t as complicated as it might seem - it can be as simple as introducing books in Spanish that feature Latino/a protagonists, and speak to their unique experiences!
That’s why we at Language Matters have founded The Bilingual Book Project: we want to offer motivation for families to focus on their children’s abilities to speak, write, and read in Spanish! More specifically, we want children to have access to more books that speak to their roots, heritage, and experiences. . . and that are available in their native tongue!
Little bilinguals need to know that Spanish IS an academic language, and we want to do our part: from writing collaborations to writing and publishing books in Spanish and English, we are committed to leaving a legacy of biliteracy.
With any questions you might have about our Bilingual Books Project or how you can get involved, contact Bethany Fonseca at email@example.com! We can’t wait to hear from you!