Jules Says . . . Bilingual Books for Children--Plus Learning a New Language (10 Minutes per session)
For many years I was caught in a conundrum. On one hand, I was always urging families to spend at least twenty minutes a day, four days a week, reading interactively with their child. Research bears out that reading to your child, on a regular basis, is the single most important thing you can do to help him or her succeed in academics—and in life.
On the other hand, I was aware that many of the immigrant families I worked with would appreciate being able to read with their child, if they could share books in their first languages. I would suggest that they visit the city library and check out the bilingual children’s book section. But were there enough titles? And would all families’ native languages be represented?
My wish for bilingual books in many, many languages has come true via a new initiative called Bab’l Books. This far-ranging project, developed by two Harvard students with support from LearnLaunch (an accelerator that focuses on early-stage education technology companies), addresses this issue head on.
“More than 20 million school-aged children in the U.S. live in multilingual households, but few children’s books are available for small language groups,” the creators’ welcoming statement says. “We aim to make bilingual storybooks available to anyone, anywhere, in any language.” What a boon for children and families! They can take turns reading to each other in one or both languages, such as Chinese, Tagalog, Hindi, and Vietnamese.
Are you fluent in one or more languages.? Help Bab’l Books translate their next round of books by clicking here. Stay up to date on their newest offerings by following them on Twitter.
Try out some books with families you know who long to read books to their children in their native language(s). Let us know how it goes!
While we’re talking about language learning, check out LinguiMind Apps. These apps are designed to inspire children to learn a new language (in 10-minute sessions) by providing practice. Here’s a link to an app that focuses on ABC’s, Numbers, Colors, Letter Flash Cards, in English, Spanish, and French ($1.99 at the iTunes store).
Again, try it out with a child who would love to learn Spanish and/or French. Write to us about your experience! Write to us about your experience!
Maybe you’re on a train and somebody sees you reading an edtech journal. He leans over and asks if you can recommend good multiplication apps for his nine-year-old. You have a few vague ideas, but you’re not ready to endorse any of the apps you’ve seen so far. It’s too important a question to be taken lightly.
Or perhaps your Uber driver is dropping you off at a tech event (like mine last night, on the way to LearnLaunch in Cambridge, Mass). He tells you his three-year-old is a whiz at using his iPad; he knows all his alphabet letters and can count to twenty—mainly because of the time he spends interacting with various apps. He wonders if you know of any other good apps his son might enjoy. You do, but are the apps really beneficial for children, or just based on drill-and-practice routines?
As educators we need to always be on the cutting edge. But with the edtech landscape changing by the minute, it’s hard to be on top of everything.
Enter Balefire Labs, a group of dedicated educators who review apps for you and share their findings in various categories (e.g., Math, English Language Arts). In reviewing each app they rate, they draw from very specific criteria (e.g., “error remediation” and “clearly-stated learning objective”), which you can learn about here.
Founded by Karen L. Mahon, Ed.D., Balefire Labs aims “to offer a solution that saves people time and money and alleviates the guilt that parents feel.” Some of that guilt comes from not being able to distinguish the good from the bad when selecting apps. As Dr. Mahon says, “It’s nearly impossible to tell apps apart when you’re in one of the app stores.” True enough.
Given my interest in early literacy development, I clicked first on the “Five Best Phonics EdApps for iOS.” I was not surprised to find “Bugsy Kindergarten Reading School” and “Sky Fish Phonics,” but I didn’t know about Eggy Phonics 1, 2, and 3, all of which made the evaluators’ cut. When I clicked on each product name, I was taken to the review and several screenshots of each of the five apps. I left this section of the website with a much greater sense of top apps than I had at the outset.
Balefire Labs is not the only website that carefully reviews educational apps. You probably already know about Common Sense Media, which many parents and teachers rely on for reviews of apps, movies, and a wide range of media offerings.
How about it TechnoTeachers? Take a look and let us know what you discover. Have you tried any of the top apps for kids in various categories? If so, does your thinking square with reviews on Balefire or Common Sense Media? Or do you disagree? Let us know!
Thanks for the heads up on Balefire, Ann Kaufman-Fredrick, Ph.D., innovative educator and member of Balefire’s Advisory Board
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This is where Jules and Nic will post articles, links to interesting sites and things that we think our TechnoTeachers will like.