Insight or Perspective: If we lose the language we lose everything!

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Part 9

By Eleni Elefterias

How do we select a good children’s book for our bilingual child?

There are lots of Greek and English bilingual books around and most of them are not very good.

Most are written by people who have no idea about language acquisition of toddlers and young children learning a second language. 

But the greatest issue is that either the book is overloaded with text for the age group it is geared towards or the book appears to be too babyish for the age group that could actually read it. 

The topic of the book is another big issue. It must be appropriate to the readership. A book about baby animals and their mothers may be more suited to two year olds, whereas a trip to the zoo with a character and storyline may be suitable for an older reader. An excursion to the cinema to watch a dinosaur movie may be inappropriate for a toddler but great for primary aged child, however, a young adult, over 12 years old, may be more interested in their favourite music band or an actor. 

Sometimes we think it is better to give young children word books with vocabulary that they are somehow supposed to devour like sponges. Many of these are board books and most always include the same simple vocabulary each time. An Alphabet book is just like this. After a while it is boring. There needs to be something more. 

Often, we underestimate out children’s ability to learn the correct word, which we perceive as more difficult, and instead we teach them nonsense words. For example, “Θέλεις μαμ-μαμ” instead of “Would you like to eat?” or “Do you want some food?” 

Children need good books whether in Greek or bilingual.

More on language acquisition and what makes a good bilingual book next week

*Eleni Elefterias-Kostakidis is a teacher of Modern Greek and University lecturer. 

Read Eleni Elefterias’ column ‘Insight or Perspective’ in Greek, every Saturday in The Greek Herald’s print edition or get your subscription here.

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