12 Must-Read Board Books

Are you looking for a new board book to spruce up your collection or to give as a gift? Board books are wonderful for young children because they do not tear or rip the way books with paper pages do, while introducing children to literacy and important concepts such as the ABCs or transportation.

I have compiled a list of 12 must-read board books that our family has enjoyed reading. 🙂

Please leave a comment to share other board books that you and your loved ones have enjoyed!

Best Ages: 0-3 years

 Board Books for Learning

  1. My First Busy Book by Eric Carle. The bright, beautiful illustrations we all know and love from the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar accompany touch-and-feel learning in this large size board book. My preschooler still likes this one!
  2. Haiku Baby by Betsy Snyder. A charming book to expose children to poetry and literature at a level they can understand! Sweet pictures highlight the lessons on seasons and weather, too.
  3. Montessori: Map Work by Bobby and June George. I absolutely love this book! It provides a great introduction to geography skills in an engaging way. The Georges are Montessori educators who founded an accredited school in South Dakota.

Board Books with Unique Illustrations

4. Busy Little Mouse by Eugenie Fernandes. Very bright and lovely 3D illustrations of clay scenes. This book also teaches animal sounds in a fun way. I found it touching that the book is written and illustrated by a mother-daughter duo.

5. Love my Shoes! by Eileen Spinelli. Multimedia illustrations show the many ways we use shoes. This would be a great book for any kids or parents who really love shoes!

6. Sally at the Farm by Stephen Hughes. My daughters both love dogs, so Sally was a big hit with them. I liked the distinct illustrations that made an otherwise simple story stand out.

Multicultural Board Books

7. Cradle Me by Debby Slier. A board book featuring baby faces and expressions is nothing new, but this one stands out because of the photographs on each page of Native American babies from numerous tribes. There is also cultural information in the back regarding cradle boarding.

8. Quiero a mi mamá porque… by Laurel Porter-Gaylord. (I Love My Mommy Because…) This is one of my favorite board books. It is bilingual, with text in English and Spanish, and accompanied by lovely illustrations of mother and baby animals.

9. Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney. A husband and wife team up to create a book with poetic text and beautiful photographs. This is an excellent read-aloud for young children.

Faith-Based Board Books

10. Really Wooly Little Bedtime Prayers by Bonnie Rickner Jensen. My husband and I appreciate the Really Wooly series because it goes beyond the well-known Bible stories commonly seen in children’s Bibles. It contains verses along with poems and prayers to explain and explore each verse… With adorable illustrations!

11. I’m Thankful Each Day! by P.K. Hallinan. This book has profound and heartfelt text. In my opinion, the illustrations are a bit wanting, but the message of the book is what made it land on this list (and what keeps it on our bookshelf at home).

12. God Made You Nose to Toes by Leslie Parrott. Although I don’t love the style of illustration in this book, I included it on this list because it engages young children with its rhymes and brightly colored pictures. My children enjoy reading this one often.





Slowing Down as a Family

When my daughters and I snuggled on the couch this week to read Quiet in the Garden by Aliki, it reminded me of the importance of slowing down as a family. I loved that this book emphasized the need to slow down and enjoy quiet. In fact, when we do slow down, we notice things that we didn’t notice before because we were too frenzied to notice! We wear ourselves out, run ourselves ragged, become stressed and irritable and exhausted… until we force ourselves to slow down and rest.

My husband and I plan regular intervals of experiencing quiet and rest as a family. We find that we need to slow down from extra activity and just enjoy one another and the world around us. We do this as individuals, as a couple and as an entire family. Here are some of our favorite ways to slow down with our kids:

  1. Leave an open weekend on your calendar. Sometimes our weekends fill up quickly with birthday parties, church events, appointments, trips or guests visiting our home. My husband and I enjoy having an occasional weekend that is reserved for family time.
  2. Make breakfast together. My husband likes to mix up homemade waffles or blueberry pancakes and cook with my oldest daughter. My youngest daughter and I help set the table. We enjoy sharing a yummy, special breakfast together!
  3. Spend time in nature or outdoors. Take a walk on a local trail, bike to the park or play a game outside in the yard. Our girls enjoy kicking around soccer balls, playing tag, hide-and-seek and red light, green light. This is also a good time of the year to check out a neighborhood farmer’s market, go apple picking or visit a pumpkin patch.
  4. Play board games or do a puzzle. Even though our girls are young, we play games like Hi Ho Cherry-O, Chutes & Ladders and Candy Land. We also enjoy doing puzzles together on the floor in our sunroom. Almost all of our games and puzzles came from thrift stores. If you don’t have many games and puzzles, these can be great gift suggestions for relatives who ask!

These are just some ideas to get you started in taking some time to slow down with your family. I would love to hear how your family intentionally slows down, whatever the age of your children! My husband and I continue to make it a habit because that time is so refreshing to our family and reminds us of the joy of experiencing life together.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • When you reach the last page of Quiet in the Garden, ask your child to find all the animal friends who join the boy for a picnic.
  • Visit a local gardening center and buy some supplies to plant a flower or vegetable in a pot. Even though we live in the city, we have been able to grow cherry tomatoes and flowers in pots on the back steps of our apartment home. Our daughters particularly like to help with the watering and picking of the cherry tomatoes!

For Teachers:

  • Do a matching activity of the garden animals and the foods they eat as the boy observes what is happening around him in the garden. Print out free clipart and tape or hang with magnets on your board for the whole class to see.
  • Take your class outside and be nature observers. Set a timer for 1, 2 or 3 minutes depending on the age of your students and ask them sit to quietly and observe what is going on around them. Then sit in a circle as a class and share what you saw. Finish up the time by playing fun group games, such as freeze tag or red light, green light.

Helping Children Cultivate Thankful Hearts

How many times do you remind your child to say thank you? When spoken with sincerity, these simple words can be so sweet to the spirit. But oftentimes our children or our students – even we ourselves – forget to say thank you.

Luke 6:45 reminds me, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

You see, if our children aren’t expressing thankfulness (or we aren’t), the root cause may not be poor manners but the deeper reality that in our hearts, we aren’t very thankful. Perhaps we’re too busy to give thanks or too focused on what we want and don’t have or think we are somehow owed the good things that we have. In any scenario, the condition of our hearts matter because that is what truly motivates what comes out of our mouths. And any parent or teacher who ever said, “Say it like you mean it!” instinctively knows this.

So how do we change this lack of thankfulness in our hearts, and subsequently, in our attitudes and words? The starting place is to choose to be thankful. Make a habit of looking for things that you are thankful for and express your thankfulness inwardly and outwardly. If this is hard for you, try to write down ten things you are thankful for each day in a journal or on a computer document. Then try to articulate those things aloud to family members, friends, co-workers or neighbors.

I’m thankful for these smiles …and Shout stain remover to take out chocolate ice cream stains 😉

Each day I choose to cultivate thankful heart, I experience great personal joy and witness firsthand how it naturally overflows into my children’s lives. They begin to mimic my behavior, speech and attitude. This is true for teachers, too! When I taught professionally, I noticed how much my demeanor influenced the culture of my classroom and my students’ attitudes.

For a wonderful book that will help your family or classroom cultivate thankful hearts, I recommend the book Thank You for Me by Marion Dane Bauer. The warm illustrations highlight the message that there are many things in life for which we can be thankful. My daughters liked adding their own impromptu “thanks” as we read together.

Before you leave this page, please share your thoughts or experiences on cultivating thankfulness in your child’s heart. 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • With your child, write out a list of 10 things for which you are thankful. Hang this list on your fridge where you will see it often and be reminded to have a thankful heart.
  • Thank You for Me draws on our 5 senses (touch, smell, hear, taste, see). Remind your child of these senses. Then choose one of the five senses to focus on for a short time today. Practice expressing thanks for that sense and what it allows you to experience. (“I’m thankful for my ears that can hear the car beep as we drive to the store!” or “I’m thankful my eyes can see the beautiful drawing you gave me just now.”)
  • Write a card, send an email or text someone you to whom would like to say “thank you.”

For Teachers:

  • Make a thankful hearts jar. During morning meeting, hand out small paper hearts to 5 students. Ask them to share one thing they are thankful for today. Then put the hearts in the jar and see how quickly your class can fill it up!
  • Print out a list of your student names and place them on your desk, a clipboard or binder. Over the next few days, try to thank each student in your room for something specific. Cross off the names as you go. Reflect on which students it comes more naturally for you to thank and which students you have a harder time thanking.
  • Think of another staff member or a parent helper to whom you can express genuine thanks. Write that person a personal note or email this week.

Linking Up Today at: themodestmomblog.com

Encouraging Your Child’s Abilities

Watching my children grow and develop makes me appreciate the abilities they demonstrate, even now at an early age. For instance, my oldest daughter often acts as a mediator with her peers and my youngest daughter has a stealth agility (great at the park, not so great on the furniture at home). I see things in both my kids that remind me of myself, or my husband, or a family member… And then there are times when I see something in them that makes me scratch my head!

The sweet girls I have the pleasure of encouraging each day.

One of the beautiful things about our world is how unique each individual is. It may be cliché, but it’s true: our world would be boring if everyone were the same. And I am grateful to live in a time and society in which most people desire to help children discover and grow in their abilities and talents. As I raise my children, and in the past when I taught in the classroom, I try to encourage the distinct abilities these incredible young ones have.

Here are a few thoughts on how we can encourage our children/students:

  1. Know who your child is. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s an important starting place. We are often distracted by the daily activities of parenting that encompass the wide range of feeding, diapering/clothing, instructing, disciplining, chauffeuring and so on. These are all necessary and valuable tasks, but completing these tasks alone cannot and should not be the sole purpose of parenting! (For teachers, the distracting activities may include lesson-planning, meeting program or administrative goals, assessing and evaluating, balancing whole group and small group or individualized instruction.)  Make it a point to go deeper to knowing who your child is: those things that excite, motivate, frighten, bore and challenge your child.
  2. Listen to your child. Again, this may seem obvious. But recently in a public setting, I heard a child trying to get her father’s attention several times. Even when she tugged on his sleeve, he didn’t seem to hear her. My first reaction to this scene was not to judge that father as a terrible parent. Instead, I felt a pang in my heart as I wondered how often one of my daughters tries to get my attention and I don’t notice. We need to be ready to listen to our children and engage with them. Note: this does not mean that the world revolves around our children.. But can we at least acknowledge their desire to be heard and assure them that we will listen when it is a good time for sharing and listening?
  3. Use affirming words and language. Among educators, there are debates over how often to praise students and what entails meaningful feedback. (Research shows that “Good job” is less effective in motivating learners than something specific like “Wow, I today that noticed that you made your goal of ____. You can be proud of that!”) You don’t need to hand out a gold star for every little thing, but take some time to consider where you can be more encouraging in how you speak to your child.
  4. Allow your child to participate in activities/experiences that will challenge and excite them. My oldest daughter has wanted to take swim lessons for a while and now that she has shown enough maturity to respond well to a swim instructor and follow directions in a safe manner around the water, we’ve enrolled her in one. She loves it and is growing in confidence and ability each week! If your child is interested in a sport, musical instrument, language, art – whatever it may be – look for programs or outlets for them to express that interest. For families on a tight budget like ours, see if there are local park district offerings at an affordable price, ask someone you know to teach your child a skill, call around to find the best prices or offers available (our swim lessons were $20 cheaper when we signed up for a morning session). Groupon can also have some good deals in your area! Or if none of those seem to be an option, just take a simple first step – like buying some paint and a watercoloring book for your child who wants to explore art.

And to wrap up the theme of encouraging your child’s abilities, check out the book Harold Finds a Voice by Courtney Davis. This story is an excellent read-aloud and has bright, bold illustrations that engage young children. My daughters really enjoyed watching parrot Harold try to imitate everything from a vacuum to steamboat… Until he finds his own unique voice!

Best Ages: pre-k to 2nd grade

Linking Up Today at: thedeliberatemom.com & mommynificent.com

Friendship in Hard Times

I believe that personal suffering can bring out the best in a true friendship. In facing difficult circumstances, my closest and dearest friends have shown their love and care for me, as well as my family, in profound ways.

One of the most touching examples of this is found in the events surrounding our second child’s birth. Since both sets of grandparents live across the country, we had close friends from church who were “on call” to take our oldest daughter whenever I went into labor with the second. In an unexpected turn of events, during an appointment to check the baby because I was 11 days overdue, my midwife came into the examining room and said that I was to report to the Labor and Delivery floor immediately. She had reviewed the results from the ultrasound completed a few days prior (standard procedure in their practice with an overdue baby) and discovered that the levels of amniotic fluid were dangerously low. They were planning to induce me within an hour if my contractions didn’t begin to pick up.

Thankfully, the contractions did pick up. And approximately four hours after arriving at the Nurse’s Station and signing forms, our second precious baby girl was born.

Love at first sight.

And then came the post-labor hemorrhage at 9 PM. The single most frightening event I have experienced in my life. Hearing nurses call for the crash cart, doctor and midwife paged to my room, nearly ten people surrounding my bed as my husband cradled our newborn in the corner and watched and prayed.

Once I was stable, we found out that we had a slightly longer stay in the hospital because of additional monitoring of my health. Our friends gladly took care of our eldest daughter a little while longer, with my husband going back and forth to spend time with her.

And once we arrived home, it was only 48 hours before the varicose vein that had bothered me so much during the pregnancy became hard and swollen, painfully red and warm to the touch. I went to the Emergency Room and was admitted overnight.

My 5-day old baby girl couldn’t stay with me.

I was hormonal and scared to be alone in a hospital room by myself, longing to take care of my sweet little girls but unable to.

Best friends from the start.

Again, friends happily stepped in to help. One couple gladly took our eldest for a “sleepover” while another brought my husband formula and taught him how to make bottles and feed our infant (we had only breastfed our first child and he didn’t know how to use formula). That same friend later came to the hospital late that evening and stayed with me, bringing me a cell phone charger and my Bible, helping me to pump and dump breastmilk while my arms were hooked up to an IV for round after round of liquid antibiotics to fight the blood clots that had formed in the varicose vein in my leg. The following day more friends came with cookies, hugs, a card game and lots and lots of love.

And once I was released from the hospital again, friends brought us meals, gave gifts to both our children, prayed for us, sent us emails and cards. Friends took me to the pharmacy to get my prescription injections and blood thinners to help dissolve the remaining clots in my leg and prevent them from spreading to my lungs or brain. They helped take care of our children when I needed to go to regular follow-ups with my physician and even offered to take my eldest for a couple hours at a time so I could get some rest.

Our friends showed us the love of Christ during one of the most difficult times in our family’s life, when I was physically weak and but emotionally sustained by the care and support we received.

It is the power of that kind of friendship that I think of as I read Dean Roberts’ book Two Friends aloud to my children. The kind of friendship that builds others up – in this case, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas – to be all they can be, to achieve their dreams and highest potential, to influence the world in marvelous and breathtaking ways.

As we read to our children and model our lives in front of them, let us hold true friendship in the highest esteem and encourage them to be good friends with one another.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas regularly met for tea to encourage one another in their work for women’s rights and African American rights. Host a tea party and invite your child’s friends to come and bring a snack to share.
  • Check out this great article on explaining rights to children and share with your child in an age-appropriate manner what rights are.
  • Ask your child how they can show kindness to their friends. Share how friends have shared kindness with you.

For Teachers:

  • Prior to reading, explain what rights are. Refer to this great article for children.
  • After reading, give each student a printable tea cup. Ask them to write one way they can show kindness to a friend and allow them to decorate their tea cups. Ask for students to share what they wrote on their tea cups and then hang them up in your classroom as a reminder to be good friends like Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas were.
  • Show students photos from the Susan B. Anthony house and the virtual tour of the Frederick Douglas museum.


Linking Up Today atmodestmomblog


Teaching about the Role of the President

It has been a very interesting year in politics, to say the least. Despite differing views on our current president or the candidates for our upcoming election in November, I think most Americans agree that we have such strong opinions about who we would like – or wouldn’t like – to see in the White House because we hold the presidential office in such high regard. Since George Washington first took office more than two centuries ago, the president gives an unimaginable amount of his energy, time and resources to serve our country. We all recognize and value the efforts of our most famed and beloved presidents, and the disappointment and disillusionment of some less-than-shining moments of other presidents (“I am not a crook” comes to mind).

As a Christian, I personally do not put all my hope in a single politician, political party or even the idea of a democratic government. Still, when I taught professionally, and even now as I raise my own children at home, I desire to model how to how to thoughtfully and respectfully express one’s own political views.

But we don’t need to get into philosophical discussions in order to teach our young children about presidential duties or even to show how to participate in our democracy. In fact, in our home, we have recently had some discussions about who the president is and what the presidential duties entail as we’ve read the sweet and funny book My Teacher for President by Kay Winters. Many of the roles attributed to a teacher and the president of the United States will apply to home educators, too.

So kick off the election season in your home or classroom with a lighthearted read! And please feel free to share a teacher or role model you think would make a good president. 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k to 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Refer to the illustrations of the teacher completing presidential duties. Explain to your child what the president of the United States does as part of his service to our country. Ask: Which responsibilities do you think are most interesting? Which would be most challenging?
  • Think of a person in your lives that embodies the qualities that are displayed in the book. Write him/her a letter and share your appreciation for all the positive and wonderful things he/she does!

For Teachers:

  • Prior to reading, ask your students what the president’s job is. Ask them what qualities would make a good president. Show them a picture of our current president, Barrack Obama.
  • Hold a mock election in your classroom (no worries about the electoral college here; it can be a true democracy!). Choose 2-3 candidates, using characters from favorite books or staff at your school. This mock election can be short with a simple explanation and vote, or drawn out with preparing posters and discussing information on the positive attributes of each candidate.
  • Write a class letter to the president of the United States. Have each student sign it and include a class photo or student artwork.

Experiencing Joy in Life Together

Our family loves to spend time together. We make memories in simple everyday moments, such as molding Play-Doh at the table, baking brownies for a friend who is coming for supper and going for a walk to the park. We also make memories in more extravagant planned outings to the zoo, trips to see extended family members or dear friends and more. In everything we do, my husband and I seek to enjoy the time we have with our children and each other.

Our youngest daughter at the beach (last summer).

Isn’t it delightful that “joy” is a part of the word “enjoy”? We experience joy when we enjoy our time together, just having fun and treasuring one another. We don’t simply do these things to pass the time but to really grow closer to one another and share in life together. No matter who is a part of your family, I encourage you today to look for a moment in which you can experience joy  with your loved ones.

In the book Beach House by Deanna Caswell, the author demonstrates the joy we gain as a family when we participate in activities and create memories as a family. The family in this book is excited to go to their beach house and play on the beach all day. My husband and I don’t ever expect to own a second home, but we do have events and traditions that our family looks forward to, including an annual Family Camp that my dad’s side has had for over 30 years.

In the hammock with Daddy at Family Camp.

Whatever your family enjoys doing to build memories while having fun, Beach House will bring back the warmth and nostalgia of your favorite family times (from growing up as a child or raising your own children). And hopefully,we will all come away from a book like this one will remind us to appreciate the beautiful moments in which we experience joy together in this life.

Best Ages: pre-k to 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Depending on the area where you live, plan a family trip to the beach! Discuss what your family does at the beach compared to the family in the book.
  • Create a mini photo album of your favorite family outings. Print out photos or create something digitally. Talk with your child about each photo and the memory it represents.

For Teachers:

  • Set up a beach station or sensory play area. If you have a sand table, pull it out! Otherwise include items such as pails, shovels, sea creature toys, towels, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, picnic basket or cooler. Allow students to interact with the items and talk about them in small groups.
  • As a class, brainstorm the various activities we do with our family and friends to have fun. Afterward, allow students to draw a picture of a time they went to the beach or did something else fun with their family or friends.


Linking Up today at: modestmomblog


Beehive Activity with Counting Book

My youngest daughter, who turns two at the end of the month, is very interested in counting books right now. I was glad to find the book Over in the Meadow, illustrated by Anna Vojtech, for her to continue practice numbers and to appreciate the beautiful animal illustrations. Both the lyrical text and the repetition of pattern for counting make Over in the Meadow a solid read for young children.

Since we liked the 5 bees buzzing in the hive, we spent the morning making beehives and practiced counting with our colorful bees. I cut out a simple beehive with yellow construction paper and used a pipe cleaner to hang it. I printed out a free bee printable to go along with the hive.


A work in progress: my youngest daughter colors her 5 bees and the hive, too!

Many of you may be familiar with the song “Over in the Meadow”. As I wrote in an earlier post, we love to sing animal songs around here, and this is one of the songs my daughters especially like to listen to. There are multiple versions of the song which take artistic license with the poem’s earliest format, changing the order of animals and sometimes the noises they make. The book Over in the Meadow, however, contains the original nursery poem whose authorship is generally attributed to Olive A. Wadsworth.


My oldest daughter colors her 5 bees before cutting them out.

For another fabulous counting book with suggested activities, check out this post!

Best Ages: pre-k to 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Think creatively together: If we were in this book, what noise or word would we say?
  • In Over in the Meadow, there are 5 bees in the hive. Make a yellow beehive with construction paper and then print, cut out and color 5 bees. Practice counting to 5 together as the bees fly in and out of the hive.

For Teachers:

  • Play the song “Over in the Meadow” for your students without video while you open the book and follow along with the illustrations. Note: This song only goes through the number 5.
  • In Over in the Meadow, there are 5 bees in the hive. Make a large yellow bee hive for the center of a bulletin board. Then give each student a coloring page for a bee and instruct them to write their names on the bee. Complete your bee hive bulletin board with each student’s bee!
  • Come up with your own lyrics for your classroom. Rather than over in the meadow, perhaps you would be over in first grade

Kicking Off the Fall with Apple Picking

Well, we had beautiful midwest weather for Labor Day Weekend. Plenty of blue skies and sparkling sunshine… And a diagnosis of strep throat for me! Bummer! In the midst of my disappointment to be out of commission, I was grateful that my husband was home to help with our young children. After staying at home for two full days to rest while he took the kids to a BBQ, church service, and on a family bike ride to get ice cream, I was able to finally get up on Monday morning – Labor Day – and have the energy to join in on the family fun. (And, after several doses of my prescription antibiotics, I was also in the clear to be out and about and not worry about possibly spreading strep throat to others. Phew!)

In a rather spontaneous decision, my husband and I looked online at 6:15 AM and decided to visit a new apple orchard about one hour’s drive from the city. Although some orchards in our region are not yet ready for picking, there are a handful that opened over the weekend.

So we showered, ate, dressed and piled in the car! Our family had a blast riding the tractor-pulled train through the orchards and the “Enchanted Forest,” picking a yummy variety of apples called Zestar (very crisp with lots of sweet and a bit tart), climbing hay bales, playing in a giant Corn Bin and more. Our youngest daughter kept saying, “Apples here!” because we’ve been reading the lovely book Apples Here! by Will Hubbell over the last couple of weeks. Exploring that book together was such a fantastic way to prepare for our fun family outing and discuss what we learned about the life cycle of apples as we picked our own.

Our youngest daughter at the orchard.

Apples Here! is a terrific book to explain in simple terms what the apple tree does in each season as it prepares to bear fruit. Whether or not you end up going on your own apple-picking adventure, it is a great read for autumn.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Visit a local apple orchard and pick your own apples or take a stroll among the trees. Discuss the life cycle of the fruit as described in the book.
  • Choose a favorite apple recipe and mix up something yummy in your kitchen with your child/ren! Take a look at Food Network’s list of 50 apple recipes for new ideas.

For Teachers:

  • Create a page divided into four quadrants. Label each one with a season. Then allow students to daw a picture of what an apple tree looks like in that season. Or use this free resource from Teachers Pay Teachers.
  • Plan a class or school trip to a local apple orchard!
  • Set up a learning center that includes items related to apples. These could include plastic apples, tin pie plates, aprons, hot pads, white plastic flower blossoms, empty apple juice or cider jugs, apple coloring pages and additional books on apples from your class or school library.

Raising Multilingual Children

With a background in Spanish Education, I always find it fascinating to hear stories of real families who are raising multilingual children. And I’m impressed by the tenacity of many people who continue to pass along their heritage and culture through their mother tongue.

Of course, there are many factors at play and so many diverse family scenarios that raising multilingual children does not always happen, even for parents who speak more than one language. Take my family as an example. My husband is Filipino and his first language is Tagalog. I am a certified Spanish teacher. Although we each speak two languages, only one is common: English. Despite our idealistic (and sometimes good-humored) dream of raising trilingual children, the reality is that we speak predominantly English in our household. It is very challenging to teach our daughters a second language that the other parent does not understand or speak well. (Kudos to parents out there who are doing this in spite of the challenges!)

Let’s be real: capturing a decent family photo is hard enough… Raising multilingual kids takes effort!

So if we aren’t raising bilingual or trilingual kids based on our own language abilities, what can we do to expose them to other languages? There are obvious answers such as enroll them in language classes, purchase software or utilize online programs… even access free apps like DuoLingo and FluentU. These are all wonderful resources and ideas, but there is another essential way we can help our children become multilingual: exposing them to other cultures and languages through good, solid children’s literature.

Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book by Muriel and Tom Feelings is an outstanding example of good children’s literature that will teach our children something basic while setting a foundation for a multilingual future. Although I doubt many of our kids will grow up to study and speak Swahili fluently, they will undoubtedly be more eager and open to learning a new language when they are exposed to many languages and cultures in a respectful manner. And don’t let your inability to speak Swahili (or any other language) hold you back from reading it to your children or students: this book contains straight-forward phonetic clues for pronunciation, as do many other books like it.

So are you ready to set a multilingual foundation through children’s literature?

Check out my other posts for another Caldecott Honor book and great ABC book. To read more about the reasons that learning another languages is useful, click on this link from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • C is for Chakula (food)- Use magazine pictures or grocery store ads to create a collage of the foods that your family likes to eat. (Bonus points if you include embe or mango, which also appears in the book!) Write the word “chakula” in Swahili somewhere on the paper and practice saying it. And for more gluing and grocery ad fun, check out a wonderful blog post by Angela at MOMtessori Life… With a great explanation of how kids learn through the use of glue sticks!

For Teachers:

  • H is for Heshima (respect) – Use cut-outs of colorful paper handprints to have students write one way that they show respect to others in our school/community. Create a respect bulletin board and include the Swahili word “Heshima” for other students to see.
  • J is for Jambo (hello) and K is for Karibu (welcome)-  As a class, brainstorm other phrases we use in English to greet one another, then think of words we use to say goodbye.  (Include non-verbals such as waving.) Ask for student volunteers to demonstrate kind and polite ways to greet one another and say goodbye.
  • R is for Rafiki (friend) and W is for Watoto (children) – Get together with another class at your grade level to play group games together at recess or a free period in the day.