I am curious what thoughts anyone has on this. Sorry if I missed previous threads to this type of discussion, please point me in the right direction.
Since before my wife and I were married, it was pretty clear that I was going to be the fun parent (she disagrees, but now it's been substantiated).
M, who just turned 2, considers me what my wife calls the "get-out-of-jail card", meaning when he is in his play pen and sees dad, he reaches for me to take him out. Everything we do together is a game, which goes well with building blocks, constructor sets, and even coloring shapes. For all practical purposes, I am the "play" parent.
Unfortunately, I am also the ml parent, and for the vast majority of time, his only source of non-TV ml exposure. When it comes to leveraging learning books, this is basically a non-starter. M definitely loves books, but to get him to pay attention to one particular object on a particular page is nearly impossible. He much prefers to flip pages and "tell his own story" rather than make any effort to repeat the word for cat, doll, hat, goat or whatever is on the page. This makes targeted ml development more difficult, since for ML he has the "no-fun-mommy" (j/k on that one) and his daycare instructors with whom he is much less cavalier on flipping the pages at his own pace.
I assume at least some of the parents here have had this experience - any suggestions on how to manage?
I remember having difficulty with my youngest to get her to pay attention to books. In fact it wasn't until she was about 3 that she learned to sit through a book on a regular basis. Some of it is just attention span I think. I did two things to remedy it. The first thing is that I gave up on books for the most part. I got a set of 100-200 flash cards and as she would pick (and chew on) the flashcards I would just talk about that particular one. "Look it's a tree. Is it tasty? It looks tasty. You don't think trees are tasty? Then why are you chewing on the tree flashcard?" As you can see, there is a lot of freestyle talk that can happen around a single picture. Another trick I used was to defy her expectations. I would read a short rhyming book, but insert an error once in a while. So if the book was itsy bitsy spider for (an English equivalent) example, i would say "Itsy bitsy spider went up the....AIRPLANE!" It's the pause, that shock, that unexpected change that made her giggle and giggle. But it also made her willing to listen more to see what other ridiculous nonsense I might be up to. I could also then play with the options "not an airplane. He went up a ladder? No?" and she'd yell "no!!! the spout!" That added a lot of interactivity into it that I think children, especially little ones like yours need.
Also be prepared to memorize the first few favorite books by heart. I think I have all of Chukovskij memorized by now because that's what we read for a good 3 years.
Posts: 125 Country (residing now): US Country (originally from): Spain Children, Ages: Girl, born in March 2016 Majority Language: English Minority Language(s): Spanish, German, and hopefully French some day!
My daughter would pay zero attention to my reading efforts in any of our mls. In fact, her main goal back in the day would be to get hold of the book I was trying to read and chew on the corners as if her life depended on it! Our copies of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "Green Eggs and Ham" are ruined by this. When she decided not to chew on the pages, she made it pretty clear that the book was going to be read 'my way or the highway,' so to speak, so...needless to say, my dreams of having my daughter sitting on my lap while reading a story went down the gutter very quickly.
She would also ignore my reading efforts completely: I'd begin reading and then she decided she wanted to go to a different room and play there, so...it was a difficult time, to say the least, and I'd feel discouraged. However, I persevered. I remember thinking "well, if I can't read with her, I'll be the news reporter," so I read and it really looked like she was listening to the news (apparently paying no attention to what she was hearing), only that 'the news' was her mother reading books. I thought I was wasting my time because no matter what I tried, she would keep chewing on the books/moving to a different room/doing something else, until...one day I heard her recite whole pages of different books by heart. It was completely unexpected. I always thought she wasn't paying any attention, but after months of reading the same books over and over again, always in the most playful way that I could think of, she decided to pay attention at some point without having the courtesy of letting me know about this. I also did what Tatyana suggested (i.e. defying her expectations), and that's when I truly confirmed she was paying attention after all. I would recite a line and stop, waiting for her to complete it with a rhyming word, and when she said nothing I made that word up, moment at which she would correct me (and laugh while doing so, I thought she believed I was silly for not remembering such an obvious word!).
Not sure if this happens with all children, but that's how it went for me. Now that she's almost 6, she's still very fond of the more 'interactive' approach to reading. It's easier now, and she pays more attention to what I read to her. She's still moving around more that I'd like, and she still grabs the books and reads them her way (or she decides to explain to me what the book is about and what's about to happen as I'm reading it)...so although I do try to make her understand that she needs to keep quiet and enjoy the listening experience (mostly so that she stays quiet when she enjoys library time at school), sometimes I try the most 'flexible' approach and let her speak and interact with me discussing (what's going on with) the books: after all, it's good to speak in several ml languages.
Thanks for the feedback, everyone. What I am hearing is not to worry so much about the attention span, even if it's just me and not necessarily other adults.
Tatyana - thanks for the tip with the flash cards. We actually had a nice set (until M discovered crayons) which are on cardboard, but only 16 two-sided cards. It works well at this pre-reading age because it doesn't matter what language the objects are labeled in! I will see if I can find a larger set and try some of the games you suggested.
Marisa, thanks for the encouraging "discouragement" story once again. It helps think more positively about my efforts.
Azeem: Hello everyone. I'm new to this forum, and I'm so glad to be here. I came across this forum reading Adam's book Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability.
Jan 11, 2022 2:04:17 GMT 9
Azeem: I will be a father soonest, and I'm curious about nurturing my child's English and my local dialect 'Yoruba' speaking ability from the start. I live in Germany, where English is a minority language.
Jan 11, 2022 2:08:26 GMT 9
Azeem: I look forward to hearing personal experiences, tips, etc., on making the journey for me fascinating. Thanks.
Jan 11, 2022 2:10:28 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Azeem, welcome! We look forward to learning more about you and your family in your first post at the "Introduce Yourself" board.
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Caro C.: We are expecting our second one... just found out last Thursday... I created a new thread to talk about the inquiries that start to arise on this subject... please visit: bilingualzoo.com/thread/1286/baby-2-oven
Jan 31, 2022 2:30:39 GMT 9