Bilingual children: why reading is important, part 1 of 3

Bilingual children – why reading is important, part 1 of 3

Today I want to come back to one of my favourite topics: reading and why it is so important to all children and bilingual children in particular. As I planned my post in the way I normally do, by creating a mind map of the topic, I soon realised that one article will not be enough to cover all the advantages. Thus this is the first post in a three-part series on the benefits of reading.

Reading time is bonding time

Sitting down with your son or daughter and reading to them gives you the opportunity to bond with them in a very special way. In a bilingual family this is an excellent opportunity for each parent to have some one-to-one time in their language.

Memories for life

Reading a book together creates memories for life. My eldest daughter loved the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” story and I must have told it to her hundreds of times. We still remember the different voices of the goats and how scary the troll under the bridge was – and what a relief it was when all three goats were able to cross the bridge and the troll was banished.


Books are a great way to introduce routines into family life. The bedtime reading is of course an excellent example of this. The story signals the time to go to sleep. Do introduce regular reading at other times as well – start a ‘Sunday Story Time’ routine, where you read books in the different family languages. You could also make reading a book part of your holiday traditions or take a book with you to the park and read outside – what are your reading routines?

Reading calms the mind

Again, reading at bedtime is the typical way to calm down, but it is an excellent way of relaxing in other situations as well. In today’s world where children are surrounded by an ever increasing array of electronic devices: computers, phones, games, TV and so on, a book is the perfect counterweight. And as one child quite rightly pointed out: it doesn’t come with commercials.

Learning about your children’s interests

You will initially be the one to choose which book you are reading for your child, but soon enough your little ones will tell you which is the preferred one. By their choices you get an insight into what lies close to their heart. You can then build on this and find more books and other resources in all languages your child is learning.

Bringing out emotions

It is not always easy for children to express their emotions. A book that allows them to speak their mind through a character in the book can be the way to tackle emotionally difficult situations. By asking your child to describe how a character might think about a certain situation, you will learn a lot about how your child feels.

Approaching difficult topics

Closely related to the above, a book can be the ideal way to start a discussion on a topic which you, your child or both of you find hard to speak about. There are excellent children’s books which tackle difficult issues such as bullying, racial discrimination, drugs and abusive behaviour, and are great as introductions to further conversation.

Part two and three to follow within a week.

May the peace and power be with you.


© Rita Rosenback 2014

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Categories: Practical advice

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16 replies

  1. Hello Rita,

    A pleasure to read you, as always.
    I love to read and that’s because my parents “taught” me that. I remember as a child having a lot of interesting books and magazines at home. I clearly remember my mom reading a lot and reading to us, my siblings and I.
    When we were children, my dad used to tell us a story before going to sleep and that’s one of my most precious memories, we now still remember how tired he was and how sometimes he changed the story or switched the tale 😉
    Looking forward to read the next parts.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment and for sharing your memories.
      I know exactly how your dad felt – I must say I sometime tried to cheat by “changing” (=shortening) the story, but that never works with children, they are too clever and soon remember a story word for word 🙂

  2. I love after dinner is done. The bath is over my son and I, we sit together and read. It’s the absolute best part of my day.

  3. Thanks for this post, Rita. When children start to read by themselves, many parents stop reading to them. Sometimes children even don’t want their parents to read to them anymore – at least for a certain time. But I saw with my children that they still enjoy a lot, when do – and so do I (they are 11 and 2×7.5).
    We also have plenty of books. I don’t censor about the “quality” of the books. I have friends who do: they wouldn’t allow their children to read comics for example. Something I don’t understand: in France and Italy there is a very interesting tradition of Comics and it’s part of the culture. – I do censor for age appropriate readings though.
    I’m looking forward to reading part II and III!

    • Thank you for your comments! I absolutely agree that you shouldn’t stop reading when your children know how to read themselves – reading moments are so precious.
      I also think that any (age-appropriate) reading is good – reading comics never did me any harm. I was reading Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse in Finnish (called Aku Ankka and Mikki Hiiri) when I was small 🙂

  4. You make so many great points here. It’s so true that reading together is a great time to discover our children’s interests, so often it can be surprising as well to see what they pick! For my family finishing the day with a pile of books has always been something really special and something i look forward to each evening.

    • Thank you, Ariadne! Yes, we think we know our children’s likes and dislikes so well, and then they go and surprise us with their choices! Your children will grow up to become great book lovers, with all them piles of books around them 🙂


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