Supporting Bilingual Children: A Call to Authors

Guest post by Vickie Tsui of Mandarin Tiger Mom . Although Vickie is no Amy Chua, she is a bilingual Chinese American mom who is trying to raise her children to be truly fluent in both Mandarin Chinese and English.

Chinese book library

Image Credit: comprock, Flickr

 

Growing up bilingual is becoming more common in certain areas of the world.  Recently, the minority births in the United States reached over 50% for the first time partially due to increasing Hispanic, Asian and multi-racial populations.  In addition, recently scientific studies showing advantages of bilingualism to brain development have rushed eager parents to attempt to raise their kids bilingual.

 

However, truly bilingual children are still a minority.  At this young age, being different from most of your classmates often leads to negative feelings like embarrassment and shame, no matter how much Mom and Dad say that this difference is actually a gift.  Why should the bilingual kids not feel isolated?  There are few children’s role models either in real life or in the media who are truly bilingual.  You may be asking, “How about Diego and Dora?  How about Kai-Lan?”  Give me a break.  Those shows and books are aimed at the wide English-speaking audience, with a few basic Spanish or Chinese phrases inserted to make parents feel like their children are learning something useful.  For a truly bilingual child, these characters can look more ridiculous than admirable.

 

So here is my plea to all authors out there who can write in multiple languages: please consider writing children’s books that are truly bilingual, or contain bilingual heroes and heroines.  We all know the benefits of having a child identify with a character in a book, both for increasing their love of reading, and for improving their self-esteem.  Harry Potter is the best known example, but there are thousands more.

 

These books can be realistic and about a child’s daily life; except the child may be speaking English to his teachers and Chinese to his parents. To be even more realistic, he may be speaking a mix of both languages to his siblings.  There may be times in which he forgets a phrase in a language, leading to some embarrassing situation; yet later on he might help as a translator to resolve some communication issues and feels like a hero. Alternatively, these books may be completely fantastic. For example, what if the famous Chinese Monkey King accidentally landed in the world of Star Wars?  Would Darth Vader try to lure him to the Dark Side while Yoda is convinced the Monkey King must become a Jedi?  Imagine how helpful C-3PO would be, being able to also speak Chinese to the Monkey King!

 

These books are certainly targeted towards a very limited audience, so major publishing companies may be reluctant to such ideas.  However, in today’s world of easy self-publishing, there must be a way to get these books out through other means.  The community of bilingual children, immersion schools, and hard-working parents are in desperate need of such children’s books for a wide age range.

 

More on Why Kids Need Diversity in Books

More Things You Should Know About Teaching Your Kids Mandarin Chinese

 

Comments

  1. says

    Would love to see more Mandarin-English books, apps, DVDs, & games for kids at all levels. The numbers are increasing slowly, but there’s a lot of room for improvement!

  2. says

    Hear hear! I’ve thought about these issues myself having all intentions of raising a bilingual child. However, having also tried to get published in the children’s book market I know how hard it is if there isn’t a large defined audience and/or you can’t garner an editor’s attention. But you are right about apps and self-publishing, it can happen!

  3. says

    Very interesting post! I am currently working for Epic Adventures Languages and we are working on our first book, The Epic Adventures of Princess Moonface, which will be fully bilingual (English and Mandarin). It is the story of Mei, a teen girl in Queens, who is on an adventure to discover her true magical identity! Please check out our Facebook page and website http://www.princessmoonface.com / blog.princessmoonface.com, we are currently waiting for proofs from the printers now!! Very exciting times.

  4. says

    Topka Books in Spain published my bilingual picture book, Playing for Papa/en el Equipo de Papa (about a biracial family in Japan). They have a number of other bilingual books about diverse families and characters. Although not available through Amazon.com, the books can be ordered through Amazon’s European sites or directly from the publihser.

    http://www.topkabooks.com

  5. Stefanie Wong says

    Have you seen the Mandy and Pandy books? They have English, Chinese and Pingyin on each page. I’ve been reading them to my lil 4.5 month boy and he loves them. Granted he doesn’t really *read* yet, but he enjoys the routine of reading and seeing the pictures as I read to him. It’s been great being able to read both english and chinese to him.

    The CDs could use some work (my nanny who doesn’t speak Chinese uses it), but thankfully since I can still speak mandarin I don’t need the CDs.

    The other really good ones are the Gordon and Lili books. Just wished they also had the Chinese characters on the same page.

    Would definitely love to see more books like the Many and Pandy books!

  6. says

    Hello! Thiis is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out annd say I really enjoy reading your blog posts.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same topics?
    Appreciate it!

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