September 8 marks International Literacy Day. Why the need for such a holiday? The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) aim to, as noted on their website, “remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights and to advance the literacy agenda toward a more literate and sustainable society.” To this day, 773 million adults around the world do not have basic literacy skills. With 2020’s celebration, UNESCO hopes to reflect and discuss innovative teaching methods in literacy programs in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Literacy can mean a lot of different things. It’s definitely not just about one’s skill in the English language. For parents who want their children to know a language as well as a native speaker, a 2018 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found children should start learning that language by age 10. So, in light of the importance of literacy and incorporating our different cultures while raising our children, Culturas gathered a list of bilingual children’s books.
Bilingual stories to read with your kids
- Hindi is ranked the number four most spoken language with 260 million native speakers, who are mostly in India and Nepal. That doesn’t even include the 120 million in India who speak Hindi as a second language. In the United States, Hindi is the most popular Indian language. For families with kids who are learning to speak Hindi and English, there is “Meri Bindi.” Translating to “My Bindi,” Anu Anand’s children’s book follows the adventures of Noor and Neal, who journey along with tiger friend Moochhar Singh. The book illustrates different types of bindis and each line of text comes in Hindi and English, with an explanation of the Hindi pronunciation.
- Estimates show the U.S. will be the largest Spanish-speaking country by 2050. Currently, there are 399 million Spanish speakers around the world, making it a pretty important language. Sulma Arzu-Brown’s “No Pelo Malo” book collection promotes the importance of this. She notes on her website that knowing another language “will allow us to engage with one another.” What’s more, Arzu-Brown’s books open up a dialogue for girls at a young age to not feel overwhelmed by unreasonable Westernized beauty standards— that POC hair is beautiful.
- One interesting thing about language is how it evolves according to region, resulting in endless dialects and forms. Mandarin alone is spoken by 848 million people, which is under the umbrella of 1.2 billion native speakers of Chinese. “The Snake Goddess Colors the World” incorporates both Chinese and English, narrating a classic Chinese myth in the form of a children’s book. The tale paints a picture of snake goddess Nuwa’s determination to transform a colorless, gray place to a beautiful, vibrant world.
- Inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage, author Monica Brown had a mission to share Latino stories with kids. This goal led to “Waiting for the Biblioburro” a Spanish-English bilingual book for early elementary school kids. The story follows Luis Soriano Bohórquez, a teacher and librarian who travels around rural Colombia to share the magic of books.
- In Jane C. Thai’s “I Like Pickles,” readers can learn simple Mandarin phrases. The dual language story is about Bobby, who really likes pickles. By keeping the book uncomplicated, absorbing a new language can be less overwhelming. Plus, there aren’t too many stories that rejoice the greatness of pickles!