Active parent participation in building English skills. Because the daily language in our Spanish immersion preschool is Spanish, and in our Mandarin program, Chinese, parents play a more active role in building children’s English language skills than in our English-language program. While the items below are recommended for parents in all of our programs, you will help your bilingual learner tremendously if you can provide this type of support at home.
For younger children (infants — 4 ½ or 5 years old), parents are key to equipping your child with strong spoken English skills.
- Expose your children daily to high-quality spoken English. Speak with your child in English as often as you can. Take him on excursions and name what you see. Talk about his day and yours; discuss what happened, what you felt, what you are thinking about. As your child gets older, use full sentences and increasingly complex vocabulary and sentence structure. If you do not speak English as your family language, ensure your child has exposure to quality English elsewhere, whether through a nanny, LePort’s after school program, or friends who speak English.
- Read with your child in English, ideally for at least 30 minutes each day. In the immersion Montessori preschool program, all of our read-aloud happens in Chinese or Spanish. Research has shown that reading aloud daily is critical to help children acquire a strong vocabulary during the preschool years. Your role as a parent of a Chinese or Spanish immersion preschool student is to provide this invaluable English language vocabulary at home through engaging daily readings with your child. We have a never-ending list of book recommendations that, over the course of his time in Montessori preschool, will give him the English vocabulary he needs but cannot acquire while speaking Spanish in preschool.
For older children (4 ½ to 6 ½ years), this means that you play a crucial role in helping your children master written English.
- Listening to your child read. Once your child starts to decode words in English, you should spend 10-20 minutes every day listening to him read to you in English. We will send him home with decodable books that grow increasingly complex over his late 2nd and 3rd year in our class. Excitedly, learning Spanish or Chinese through immersion requires a dual parent-teacher approach: you will be his English sounding board at home while our Montessori preschool teachers will listen to him read in Spanish or Chinese at school! Of course, if you do speak Spanish or Chinese, don’t hesitate to also let your child read to you in that language; just don’t worry at all if you aren’t a native speaker: we’ve got the target language covered at school.
- Encourage writing in English. Our students will master writing in Spanish or Chinese in the Montessori preschool class and will have many opportunities to practice writing in Spanish or Chinese. Once your child starts on the English writing program, offered in the afternoon to older 4-year-olds and to 5-year-olds in the Spanish program, and to all students in the Chinese program, we will provide you with tips on how to encourage writing in English at home, such as offering “story writing paper”, where he can draw a picture at the top and write about it below, playing labeling games, or asking your child to write lists for you. For the Chinese program, as much character learning is based on repetition, we will also encourage you to provide practice for characters for older children, if your child is interested in it.
An interest in raising a bilingual child. While there are huge benefits to being bilingual, there may be challenges along the way that will require us to work together closely. We encourage you to educate yourself about bilingual education with some of the following resources, and we’ll of course support you with ongoing parent education events.
The book The Bilingual Edge, by Kendall King and Alison Mackey, offers a parent-friendly overview of the benefits and ins-and-outs of raising a bilingual child.
This short pamphlet addresses some of the common questions parents have about raising bilingual children.
The Center for Applied Linguistics is one of the leading research institutes working on understanding how children and adults learn languages.
Nanduti is a website maintained and funded by CAL, to equip parents and teachers with information about learning foreign languages in preK- 12 school environments.