In this article, Barefoot Books Ambassador Jen Bennett shares her vision for teaching her kids Spanish and talks about Spanish picture books. She points to specific books that she has enjoyed with her children.
Hi! Hola! My name is Jen, and I am a wife and mother of two, Michael (4) and MarySol (3). I used to be a high school Spanish teacher, but now my passion is to share the gift of a second language with my favorite students, my kids!
This has had its challenges; don’t get me wrong. My husband does not speak Spanish. Our families do not speak Spanish. We live in Michigan, not a predominantly Spanish speaking part of the country. So I had to get creative. How would I get my children to learn Spanish in this English-dominant environment?
I had to create our own Spanish environment. Singing. Speaking. Watching TV. Reading. We do all of these in Spanish.
Any song I know in English, I translate, sometimes a little roughly, into Spanish. I always speak to them in Spanish and encourage them to speak to me and to each other in Spanish. If they get to watch a show or movie, I only let them watch it in Spanish.
But mostly we read together. I only read to them in Spanish. If a book is in English, I translate it. But Dr. Seuss just does not sound as nice when I translate it. So I started looking for good quality books in Spanish.
That is when I discovered Oso en bicicleta by Barefoot Books. This book is a sweet journey about a boy and a bear to different places on different modes of transportation. The text is simple but has an amazing rhythm and rhyme with some great repeating texts. We read this book so many times that eventually my 2-year-old son read it with me! This was extra special because he didn’t really speak at that time, possibly due to the two languages or possibly because he is a boy. So when he started repeating with me as I read, it brought tears to my eyes! Finally, something was sinking in! I was reading and not only was he understanding, he was learning!
We are also very fond of music and were so happy to discover tons of sing-along books in Spanish also by Barefoot Books. Singing and reading is such a wonderful way to develop language and to do them at the same time is even more powerful! One of our favorites is Vivamos la granja. This song is pure sweetness and the story of kids on the farm is a wonderful way to teach them about farm life. My kids often sing the song by themselves or together, even when we are not reading. It is great to build their vocabulary and I learn so much myself! At the end of the book , you will find extra information to expand on daily life on the farm.
Another great sing-along book we love is El loro Tico Tango. This is a fun story that also teaches about sharing. In the story, Tico Tango takes fruit from his friends. In the end he drops all of the stolen fruit and despite what he did to his friends, the friends still agree to share with him. This has been a great story in my house because having two toddlers, we often struggle with sharing and taking things from one another. It has become fun to say, don’t be a Tico Tango, and my children understand immediately that it is not nice to take things from others.
Reading with my children has been a wonderful way to share special time and to also build language. I love finding new books to share with them, and they love it when I bring new books into our home.
You may also be interested in this post: Spanish Story for Kids – Oso en Casa Activities