Why Bilingual Books?
Of the 10,000 babies born at Parkland Hospital in 2015, approximately two-thirds were born to mothers who prefer to speak Spanish. Bilingual books allow Latino families to use the language with which they feel most comfortable. In a recent study from the University of California, Latino preschoolers fell behind their non-Hispanic white counterparts in early language and preliteracy skills even though the two groups were equal in social competencies and intelligence. Latino toddlers between two and three years of age displayed language and cognitive skills about eight months behind their non-Hispanic white peers. This gap persisted through ages four and five, resulting in the Latino children entering pre-kindergarten already at a disadvantage. The researchers discovered that Latino mothers engaged less frequently in cognitive facilitation, oral language, and preliteracy activities such as reading to young children at home. There was also a marked lack of exposure to complex oral language and reading materials in many Latino homes.
Reading to babies and toddlers, no matter which language is used, promotes the preliteracy skills children will need later to succeed at reading in school. The Books for Dallas Babies project hopes to include additional languages in the future.
Appealing to mothers
Sturdy cardboard construction
Visually interesting - colorful, multi-cultural, illustrations done in a child-friendly style
Enjoyable subject appropriate to mother's culture
Written at no higher than 3rd grade reading level
Uses enriching language in storybook or poem form
Publisher agrees to add pages with literacy, library and donor info
Book is new
The characteristics of the picture books chosen are key to the success of the program. The books must be appealing to the mothers who receive them or the stories will never be read. The books should be new, for reasons of hygiene, and made of durable cardboard that children can easily handle and even gnaw on without ripping the pages. They should also be visually interesting in style and color, with enjoyable subjects and characters that fit the mother’s culture. In the case of Latino mothers, the bilingual books should be appropriate for the family-centered Latino culture. Ethnic diversity in the illustrations is very important so that each new mother feels that the program is for her. All books should be written at no higher than third grade reading level as many of the new mothers at Parkland have very limited reading skills in any language. A central aim of Books for Dallas Babies is to encourage families to use enriching language, Spanish or English, with babies and toddlers. Therefore, the program prefers storybooks and poetry that use engaging language, not just concept books with few words. More books will be added to the list of recommended books in the future.
First Book Chosen
The first book chosen for the program was VAMOS A LEER / READ TO ME (photo above) written by Judi Moreillon, illustrated by Kyra Teis, published by Star Bright Books, Boston, MA, Deborah Shine, Publisher. With a gentle rhyme, this poem introduces parents to the importance of talking, singing, and reading aloud to children. Additional pages were included in the book to provide literacy and library information and to acknowledge major donors to the project.