Beyond ABCs: Unlocking Early Literacy Skills Across Languages

In a diverse and multicultural city like Edmonton, the journey to developing early literacy skills begins in many different languages. A significant 20% of Edmonton residents speak languages other than English at home, showing how the city is rich in diverse cultures and languages (source: Edmonton-% Non-official Language Speakers []). It's important to know that kids are good at learning important reading skills even before they start school, no matter what language they hear at home. We know that parents might worry about how well they speak English or how they say words. This blog post will talk about why it's important to help kids with their language and reading skills in multilingual families and give ideas for parents to help their kids start reading early, even if English isn't their first language. It also addresses parent’s concerns about how well they speak English.

Speak in Your Home Language

When you are taking care of and spending time with your young child, the language you use is more than just words. We understand that some parents might feel unsure about their English fluency or pronunciation. However, the most important thing is the quality of communication, no matter which language you're using. Right from the beginning, talk to your child in the language that comes naturally and comfortably to you. This not only helps them become good at language but also connects them to their cultural heritage. It's worth noting that children who are good at one language usually find it easier to learn more languages later on. By using your home language, you're preparing your child to be successful in reading and writing in many languages.

Embrace the 5 Practices of Early Literacy

Early literacy skills are built on five important activities: reading, talking, playing, singing and writing. These basic practices work well in any language. If English is not your first language and you're concerned about your pronunciation, remember that your child benefits greatly from your authentic voice and the rhythm of your language. Sing songs in your native language or create new ones together. Play with your child using your home language and read books in various languages. Edmonton Public Library has lots of different kinds of books, like board books and picture books, in many different languages. By following these five activities, you're making a strong base for your child's reading and writing skills, no matter what language they use.

See Multilingualism as an Asset

Some parents worry that teaching their children more than one language might confuse them or make it hard for them to talk. However, research strongly disagrees with this idea. Our brains are good at learning languages, so we can easily learn many of them. Being able to speak many languages is a great advantage that helps us think in different ways and understand different cultures. If you're concerned about your fluency in English, remember that exposing your child to multiple languages enriches their brain development.

Use Community Resources

Helping your child with early literacy skills goes beyond just your home. Look for classes, groups and activities that encourage using your native language. Also, involve your child in the community, so they can talk and play in the languages they're learning. Each time they interact with others, they become more confident and develop a strong sense of who they are. Consider resources like Talking Pen Bilingual kits, picture dictionaries, Family language kits, Tumblebooks and wordless picture books. These resources are invaluable for co-learning English with your child or supporting them when English might not be your first language.

Nurturing Early Literacy in Every Language

Helping your child learn early literacy skills can happen in any language. By using your home language, following the five basic activities and getting involved in the community, you're creating a learning path that will stay with your child throughout their life. Remember, each language they learn adds to their knowledge and helps them connect with others from all over the world. This opens doors to many exciting opportunities. Your journey towards supporting your child's literacy is unique and it's a journey that bridges cultures and languages, fostering a love for learning that knows no bounds.