The U.S. Department of Education recommends that parents and their children “read many stories with rhyming words and lines that repeat. Invite the child to join in on these parts.” This strategy can be used when reading in any language. Many familiar stories can be found in languages other than English. If it is a story with much repetition, the pattern of the story can be learned quickly by you and your child. Additional stories can be created using the same pattern but different vocabulary. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, is an example of a repetitive story known to many children. Children enjoy taking the familiar story and creating their own version. This is a way to expand your child’s vocabulary in another language.
Side-by-side stories, or children’s books which show English on one page and a different language on the facing page, provide wonderful opportunities for side-by-side reading with your child. As your child becomes a more independent reader, these kinds of books can motivate him or her to explore and extend language learning and still maintain comprehension. Check out the “Let’s Read” series which is available in several languages and at a variety of levels.
Your child’s modern language teacher may send stories home that are written in the language your child learns at school. This is the perfect opportunity to practice that language at home in a way that is familiar and comfortable for your child. Most likely, your child has heard and practiced reading the story several times. Just as when she was learning to read English, a combination of memorization (sight words) and sounding out new vocabulary will lead to increased fluency. If your child’s teacher is using the TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) method, then gestures may accompany the vocabulary and expressions in the second language.
Many parents’ first reaction is to have their child translate the story into English for them. Resist that urge because translating is a difficult skill and one your child might not be learning quite yet in school. Instead, ask your child to act out the story so you can understand it without the use of English. If you feel a translation is absolutely necessary, ask your child to give a brief summary of the story in his own words, and then have your child read the story as it is printed. Celebrate together the fact that he or she can read a story in another language!