Beginning a Collection of Bilingual Books

Last fall we got an exciting phone call.

Usually when your child's school calls you it's not something to celebrate. Either you've got to come pick up someone who isn't feeling well or who is misbehaving in a major way, or you've forgotten to pack a lunch or something else that's just not great news. But when I answered the phone, worried about what I was going to hear, I got a nice surprise.

Levi was accepted into the bilingual program!

Levi poses with his artwork and a favorite toy, Aug 2015.
If we accepted the offer, Levi would switch into a Kindergarten classroom that taught half in English and half in Spanish, and he would continue dual immersion learning through 5th grade.

Well, ever since I learned about dual immersion programs as part of my TESOL studies, I've wanted my kids in one of these programs. The benefits are huge. Improved language skills in both languages, and increased opportunities to befriend kids from different backgrounds were two big draws for us. So, of course we accepted. Levi had only been in his other Kindergarten class for a week and a half, and though I worried for a moment about him going through another transition so quickly, I realized that by the time Thanksgiving rolled around it would all be water under the bridge. Jacob never worried about it for a moment.

Levi has been loving it.

Mi familia
Levi is an observant kid in general, and he's particularly verbal. Read: his first word was "Achoo." He recognized that we got this funny look on our faces and made a sound effect and he was fascinated by it. It was funny and interesting to him. He tried making the same sound. Obviously, when we realized he was fake-sneezing at less than a year old, we thought it was very funny. So I wasn't surprised at all when his new teacher reported that he had jumped right in and started trying out Spanish words, even though he's not required to use any Spanish yet.

It has been such a treat to hear him singing songs in Spanish, and so good for me to have him bringing home Spanish work. I speak some Spanish, but I'm self-conscious about my limited vocabulary and conjugation skills. Having a new practice partner at home has been great.

I'm not going to lie though, we mostly speak English to each other. In the day-to-day routine, especially now that we're into the second semester of school, I forget to practice my Spanish on him. I forget to ask him if he learned any new words or phrases today.

Luckily, we have a new Spanish book. It's called ¡Hola! Let's Learn Spanish by Judy Martialay.  It is intended for kids ages 6-10 and their parents, whether or not they speak Spanish. Personally, I'm glad I speak Spanish already. Those who don't can go onto the website associated with the book, and listen to pronunciation. But I'd just as soon keep us off the computer during reading time. The author sent me a copy of the book, in exchange for my review.

click to shop

Here are my thoughts about the book:

I like that it reminds me to speak Spanish with Levi. I like that it has so many fun activities in it, and not just a story. We've done the treasure hunt, made some masks, and we're definitely planning on putting on the skit and making a piƱata.

I think the book is correctly targeted for ages 6-10. Benjamin, who is eight, was also listening to the story and getting involved.

I'm not super impressed with the illustrations and the design of the book. The author is a retired Spanish and French teacher, and she illustrated the book herself. Levi doesn't mind that it's not going to be winning awards for illustration. That doesn't bother him a bit. What he cares about is the story, which is fun, the activities, which are enjoyable, and the time he gets to spend with me, which is priceless to both of us.

I'm glad we have ¡Hola! Let's Learn Spanish. I think we'll continue to use it and learn from it, and it's a nice start to our collection of bilingual books. We've had My Food Mi Comida by Rebecca Emberley for ages, but I think that's the only other bilingual book we own.

What are your favorite bilingual books? I'd love to hear about them whether they incorporate Spanish or not. If you know another language and/or are teaching your kids, tell me about your experience! Do you have questions about bilingual kindergarten? Feel free to ask.


  1. It's good that you can speak some Spanish at home. It's really crucial. I taught at a school where they spent half the day speaking French, but by the time the students reached 6th grade, I don't think they really knew any more French than anyone else. It was weird. My niece was in a similar program where they spent a lot of time not learning Chinese! I hope your program is more effective.

    1. LOL! I think I know what you mean. Some friends of ours have a daughter finishing 5th grade in this program and they don't speak Spanish at home, as far as I know. From what they said, she understands a lot of Spanish, but doesn't speak particularly well. The fact of the matter is it takes a lot of practice to learn a language, and the reading, writing, listening and speaking are all separate skills.

  2. We have a huge collection, probably 100 books. I volunteer at the scholastic warehouse book sales and pick them up there, often very cheap in the build-a-box section. My favorites are simple books they are already familiar with in English, like Green Eggs and Ham and the If You Give a... series. What I want more of is authentic Spanish book, not English translations. If anyone had found a good source let me know.

    1. I knew you'd have a big one, Rachel! I'm going to have to try to find the scholastic warehouse around here. Tina clued me into that a few years back but I haven't tried volunteering yet.

      Levi brought home If you Give a Mouse a Cookie in Spanish the other day and we had a lot of fun with it.

      I'll keep my eye out for you on authentic Spanish books! Enchanted Lion is a publishing house that published a lot of good European books, but I just checked their list and they don't have anything from Spain. sigh. Have you read TITO PUENTE, MAMBO KING/TITO PUENTE REY DEL MAMBO? It's a good one, and I think it's even a better read-aloud in Spanish than it is in English.

    2. p.s. Are you still maintaining your Spanish games site? If so, leave the link here so that people can check it out!

  3. My daughter is Latina, and when she was young, we'd always try to include Spanish-language books in our reading. Here is list of books we've read and reviewed over the years. http://thereadingtub.com/post_search.php?srch=spanish

    Some of my favorites are those that blend English and Spanish into the story, like Paco and the Giant Chile Plant / Paco y Plante de Chile Gigante.

    1. Thank you for the list, Terry! I got this comment while I was at our library, so I searched the catalog for Paco and the Giant Chile Plant, but they didn't have it. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on it another way!


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