top of page

Why You Should Use Dual-Language Books In The Classroom

Dear Future Teachers,

Literacy is an important skill for all students to learn. Whether you like reading, or you don't care much for it, it's still vital in many areas in life outside of school. Reading is incorporated into schools through classroom libraries, school libraries, take-home reading logs, homework and tests, and segments of the school day dedicated to silent reading. Reading is important! Most schools focus on books in English, but depending on the area you are teaching in, you may have multiple students who speak a different language at home. While becoming proficient in English is important in U.S. schools, maintaining one's cultural language should also be a focus in schools. So how do we incorporate both English and other languages into the classroom?

Bilingualism is a skill all children should foster, in my opinion. While bilingual education is a topic as a whole that I'd love to dive into, today I will focus on dual-language books and why they should be used in classrooms, especially classrooms with students who speak a different language at home.

Dual-language books are books that tell a story in two separate languages, or intertwine one language with another throughout the story. For my Children's Literature class, we were able to read and dual-language children's books, and I thought it was a super neat learning opportunity that I hadn't been exposed to in my own K-12 education. Dual-language books are more than just translations from one language to another. Often the story can be experienced differently in each language, and the second-language needs to be an accurate translation, not a literal translation, so the meaning of the story can remain intact.

The Benefits of Dual-Language Books in the Classroom

  • Dual-language books allow students to expand their vocabulary in both languages. They also allow students to grow accustomed to the different grammar rules and sentence structures in each language.

  • Parents who speak languages outside of English can read dual-language books from school with their children at home in their native language, allowing them to be involved in what the child is learning at school.

  • All students are exposed to a different culture by reading dual-language books, and it gives representation to students who speak other languages!

Tips for Using Dual-Language Books in Schools

  • Read the story in English first, then read it again in the second language if you can! If you have older students, and one who is familiar with the second language wants to read out-loud, great! However, don't put students on the spot to read in front of the class just because you know (or think) they are fluent in a second language. If you aren't fluent in the second language, or are unable to read the second language, you can show the class the words of the second language instead! Another possibility is having a parent or volunteer come in to do the second reading.

  • Encourage students to read the non-English version of the story with their parents at home! Some parents may not be fluent in English, so this would provide a great way to bridge school with home. Other parents may be bilingual themselves and can help foster bilingual literacy. Parents who don't speak a second language might enjoy tackling something new with their child by going through the story in English and comparing it to the second language!

  • Research the dual-language books you are using! Some dual-language books might not be translated accurately. Literal translations don't always capture the true meaning of a sentence originally written in English when translated into another language, and vice versa. Research the publisher of the book and, if possible, find out who translated the book and whether they are fluent in the second language themselves.

  • When possible, use books that are culturally relevant to the second language. Not only will students be exposed to a language outside of English, but they get to learn about a new culture too! For example, one of the dual-language children's books I read was in Italian, and it talked about different food dishes, pastimes, and art you could find in Italy. Remember to steer clear of generalizations! There are a lot of different countries and cultures under the umbrella of Asia, Latin America, etc., so be specific about which country you are referring to.

A Dual-Language Book I Recommend!

The book that I read for my dual-language study in school is called Señorita Mariposa by Ben Gundersheimer. This book discussed the migration of the monarch butterfly from Canada to Mexico in both English and Spanish. Not only was the translation accurate, but the images were beautifully diverse also! The book reads like a song, and the language isn't overly complicated, so it's a great book to use in elementary classrooms.

Purchase this book here: Señorita Mariposa

Dual-language books can help transform the classroom into more modern and inclusive spaces. I hope this post was able to peak your interest and inspires you to add dual-language books to your own classroom libraries! If you have any dual-language books that you recommend, send them to me through my contact form (bottom of my home page) here. Happy reading!

Much Love,

Emily B.

bottom of page