How to Teach Your Kids a Second Language Through Books

Storytime is such a great way to introduce a second language and help your child read new words in a fun, natural way

But...I totally get the idea that reading a story in a language you don’t speak can be intimidating for non-native speaking mamas - because I’m one of them!

I made it work though - and my kids language skills really blossomed with simple bilingual storytime. 

Here are some super easy tactics you can use - native speaker or not - to teach your child a second language through books.

Be comfortable with the story you’re reading

This is one of THE BEST tips for non-native speakers when it comes to introducing a second language. 

Choose the bilingual book of a story you know and enjoy telling (in English) so you start with a familiar foundation. For example, The Hungry Caterpillar was a hit in our home in English and French. 

Grab my list of recommended books for easy bilingual storytime here

Keep a book on high rotation

We all know how much kids love to read the same books over and over and over again, right? 

Turns out this repetition is incredibly helpful for learning to read in a second language. 

Repeated exposure to the same book helps them encode information and recognise letters and words. Don’t forget to inject fun into your voice - use lots of expressions and different voices. 

So here we go...Frozen round 102, let’s do this!

Trace your fingers along the word of the book

This is a super helpful tip. Make your index finger a continual part of the story telling and your little one will begin to recognise words and letters even before they can speak them. 

The fact that storytime is usually a time to wind down and cosy up together means they’re in a relaxed state which helps facilitate learning to read in another language. It’s not a time to be pumping your kiddo’s brain with vocabulary drills!

“Mum doesn’t know everything.”

Before diving into stories in a new language I used to tell my kids….

”Ok, Mummy doesn’t know everything but let’s find out together.”

Ah, how liberating this phrase is.  It sets you free from feeling like you have to get EVERYTHING right! 

And kids are so forgiving, they’re not critiquing your pronunciation. They’re just enjoying some cosy story time with their mama bear. 

Give yourself unlimited permission to Use. This. Phrase! 

You can ditch the ‘age appropriate’ books

If you’re introducing a new language to your 7 year old, the ‘age appropriate’ books in the target language might not be the right fit in the beginning stages. 

Consider choosing a more simple story intended for a younger audience to start with. 

If you’re a non-native speaker let your 7 year old know that choosing something simpler will help you too because you’re learning together.

Read every day

Make reading time a daily activity where you snuggle and make your way through new words together. 

Creating a safe, loving environment is something that turns the simple act of reading into time that you and your little one really treasure.

The bottom line on reading in another language is this -

You need to be willing to stumble a little (or a lot...I’m pointing at myself right now) and step outside your comfort zone if you want the best for your kids. 

I think this Dr Seuss quote is a beautiful reminder that it’s worth stumbling a bit to give our kiddos the brightest future possible. 

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” - Dr Seuss

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