Five Recommendations for Choosing Bilingual Baby Books – Year One

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Photo via Monica Holli

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read;

there are only children who have not found the right book.” (Frank Serafini)

As a former English teacher, I couldn’t agree more with Serafini’s words. And, as a mother, it is my responsibility to help my daughter find the right books, at the right time. Today I’d like to share with you five characteristics that I looked for when selecting”the right book[s]” for my daughter in her first year.

What to look for in a baby book:

  1. Board book (tapa dura) – 

Infants and toddlers love to put everything in their mouth, and that includes books. So, choose books that will stand the wear and tear that mark a baby’s first year.

       2. Original Version (versión original) –

I wrote in an earlier post about the importance of selecting non-translated books (in my family’s case, choosing books originally written in Spanish). Often the translations are poorly done, wrought with grammatical errors. The language of original versions is fluid and natural, and they reinforce the validity of the minority language and its corresponding culture.

       3. The Classics (los clásicos) –

There’s no doubt that there is fantastic contemporary children’s literature that address modern issues and perspectives; however, there is something special about those books that have stood the test of time, be it 10, 20 or even 50 years. These are stories whose characters and morals are universal, stories that us parents read and learned from during our youth. These works provide our children with a connection to past generations and places.

       4. Tactile/Sensory (táctiles) –

Babies learn about their world with their whole body, so choose tactile books that engage all the senses. Many board books come with flaps that baby can touch (and, yes, rip!), or with animal sounds, or even with scented pages (e.g., Pat the Bunny).

        5. Printed in both languages (bilingües) –

While original version books have advantages to their translated counterparts, we shouldn’t be quick to dismiss bilingual books. By bilingual, I mean books that print two languages on each page. The benefit of including these books in baby’s home library is that they allow other family members and friends who speak one or the other language to participate in baby’s daily read a loud ritual.

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Here are some of my  – and little E.’s – favorite books from each category:

First, I understand that it can be difficult to find quality children’s books in more than language. Several readers have asked me where and how I purchase books. My go-to resource is amazon.com (Amazon also has inventory in other countries.). If I cannot find what I’m looking for there, I will try a Google search. Another invaluable source for original version books (in my case, in Spanish) is through friends and family in Spain. Finally, I’ve gotten some great book recommendations from the parenting blogs from Spain I now follow.

  1. Board books

El Camioncito Azul – This is a translated version of Little Blue Truck. The translation to Spanish is excellent and the story is beautiful: one of friendship and helping even the meanest of neighbors.

Quiero a mi mamá porque… – Another translated version of I Love my Mommy because…. We like this, not only because it’s a board book, but because the characters are animals, which little E. loves.

2. Original Version

La Granja al Dedillo – This was a gift from E.’s aunt in Spain. It’s both tactile and rich with farm and animal-related vocabulary, including onomatopoeia in Spanish.

A Ver, A Ver. Casitas de Animales – Another gift, from friends in Spain. Lots of interactive flaps (solapas) and words that even mamá had forgotten how to say.

(Based on the recommendations from friends in Spain, as well as from the blogs I follow, I’ve begun to compile a “wish list” on Spain’s amazon site for our next visit to Spain.)

     3. The Classics

For a list of classic English language children’s literature, I recommend you check out the Kindergarten cannon as listed on the Fordham Institute’s website. Most of these are the books of my own childhood; these are stories whose universal characters and lessons have stood the test of time. If you can purchase any of these in your target language, do it! (Note: these are books meant for children ranging in ages from 0 – 6 years old.)

Of the list, we love Are you my mother? and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? and Harry, the Dirty Dog and Goodnight, Moon (all translated into Spanish).

     4. Tactile/Sensory

Although it’s in English (my husband and I translate as we read aloud), Pat the Bunny appeals to baby’s sense of sight, touch, and smell. It’s also a classic from my own childhood.

Sonidos Sorpresa – ¡Guau! ¡Guau! – No, dogs in Spanish don’t say woof, woof! E. now has each little flap memorized and is starting to imitate each animal’s sound.

     5. Printed in both languages

 I Like it When…/Me Gusta Cuando… – This is also a board book with lots of bright colors.

How Do I Feel?/¿Cómo Me Siento? – This is a wonderful introduction to giving words to your baby’s feelings and emotions.

First Words/Primeras Palabras – Bright colors and single words on each page.

Words/Palabras – Again, lots of bright colors and pages for baby to touch.

For those of you interested in books in languages other than English and Spanish, check out this previous post in which I provide links and resources to help you get started.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of Spanish/English books for baby’s first year. But, if you’re looking for recommendations, I hope it has given you a starting point. And, since the mantra in our house is, you can never have too many books, I’d love to hear from others. What books do you recommend for a bilingual baby’s first year? What should I add to E.’s library?

2 thoughts on “Five Recommendations for Choosing Bilingual Baby Books – Year One

  1. Pingback: From “agenda” to “relationship”: an update to my bilingual parenting journey | Españolita...¡sobre la marcha!

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