Should I read to my daughter in the ML too? Oct 16, 2019 3:09:16 GMT 9
Post by Marisa on Oct 16, 2019 3:09:16 GMT 9
After reading Dominika's posting, I thought I should share my latest experience in my bilingual journey, because it's the opposite, actually.
My daughter began attending her new school last August. Loved the school, its curriculum and teachers. It's a private school, and one of the main reasons why I wanted her to go there was because it's the only school around where kids get exposed to a second language as part of the curriculum (one hour a week, but at least it's something! Spanish in the fall, French in the spring). Long story short, last Friday I met with her teachers, the lower school supervisor, and the school counselor. They all told me that my daughter was not prepared for the program, and they strongly advised me to enroll her in a different one. She was having tantrums, was not following rules, and was being disruptive. They showed me a developmental chart for children her age, where I was able to see what things my daughter should be doing and she's not. I was appalled... because most of the things that were listed there were related to her language skills. According to the chart, she wasn't using complete sentences, couldn't communicate how she felt, didn't seem to understand what the teachers were telling her, and felt truly frustrated when she couldn't communicate.
I think my daughter's issue is that she's a feisty 3-year-old who's in the process of learning things, and sure, she might need more help with self-control and tantrums, but it's part of the learning process. I won't discuss that part here, but I want to say... I completely disagree with that chart. My daughter can do everything the chart says she can't, only that she does it in Spanish and even German, her two minority languages. It's not a cognitive issue, it's not that she can't do it at all... it's that she chooses a language different from English to do that. At 3 and a half, my daughter has very long conversations for a kid her age, she 'reads' books back to me, and she knows a lot of vocabulary in Spanish and also in German. She was saying the other day "oh, the squirrel is climbing the tree, and it's carrying a nut, look mom!, she throws the nut, how crazy!!, and the wombat is sad, the squirrel throws the nut, and its head hurts, poor wombat!" in German... and that's for someone whose exposure to German is from a mother who isn't fluent in that language. So I honestly think that her teachers were emphasizing the "she doesn't seem to understand English and she gets frustrated when she can't communicate with us, that contributes to her tantrums, and we can't help her" a little bit too much to justify why she shouldn't be part of the program. They said she had great potential and would love to have her again, but she needed a different type of help than the one they could provide.
To this day, I don't speak in English to my daughter, we don't watch TV in English in the house, or listen to music in English. She's been attending daycare since she was 6 months old, and English has been the only language used there. On average, she's been exposed to English 7 hours a day, Monday through Friday, and a couple of hours on Saturdays when we did music and art classes.
Incredibly enough, with all that exposure, her dominant language is Spanish (she's saying things like 'mom, can you help me, please? I can't open this, please open it for me, thank you mom' or "wait mom, we can't go upstairs until we turn the lights on, let me do it, please, OK, done, now we can go up, be careful with the stairs, mom, don't fall!'), and she's doing pretty well for the German that she's exposed to. After I met with her teachers at school, I 'broke' my rule of not speaking in English to her, and I asked her several questions. She understood everything I said and did as requested. On different occasions, I asked her things in English. She didn't understand a couple of words here and there, but she had no problem understanding what I told her. So... the way I see it, it's not that she's not doing all those things specified in the chart: she's just not being too verbal in English yet. She can express her feelings just fine, and with pretty long sentences for a kid her age, in Spanish and German.
I felt pretty upset about the whole situation, because to an extent, I was made to believe that there's something wrong with my daughter... AND THAT'S NOT THE CASE. She's just not as verbal in English as her peers, which is absolutely OK, considering she's being raised multilingual (and about the behavior issues... she's just 3, and I honestly don't think she's being too different from other kiddos, but oh well...). So...
(1) I asked one of my former students if she could meet with Isabel-Marie once a week and read books in English to her (and also play and sing songs in English). I think this might be one of the reasons why she's not so verbal in English, because I read to her extensively, but not in that language. I'm the only parent she has, and because we don't use English at home (and definitely not when talking to me), she doesn't get to hear much English reading compared to the other languages. I hope this helps a little.
(2) The thing I'm actually hesitant to do is... whether I should read to her in English as well or not. Reading has made a huge difference in her command of Spanish and German. She's definitely verbal and willing to use the languages that she shares with her mom, so I was wondering what would happen if I read to her in English too. I read to her in two different languages, and she has always been OK with that, never mixing them at all... but they were the minority languages, not the ML. I'm honestly not sure whether I should do this or not. I was thinking that maybe it'd help her with her being more verbal in English if I read to her, but not in the house. Maybe we can go to my office and read two or three books every day in English and interact with her in that language as part of the reading time, but not in the house, and doing my best to make it very clear that it's an exception, not the rule. Or maybe I should just wait and see how things are going with the new school and her English usage... I don't want to open Pandora's box and regret it later, to be honest.