Why reading in more than one language is important for children


There are two very basic processes that complement learning, namely reading and language. Humanity has long been exploring “language” to determine whether it is emergent or innate. There is an ongoing debate about whether “reading” is just a visual process (where we interpret visual symbols).

Well, the explorations are inconclusive. However, we are sure that they not only help to gain new knowledge, but also to acquire skills and neural pathways that will help us to learn new things better.

Reading stimulates a child’s mind to wander into many ways of thinking – activating multiple senses and deriving multiple meanings. Introducing this reading habit to children at an early age lays the foundation for a powerful learning journey and promotes their cognitive development.

However, I believe that reading in more than one language – especially one that includes the mother tongue – can greatly expand a child’s learning horizon.

While English is most often the first language in schools, parents need to get involved to provide their children with a holistic learning experience at home – by letting them speak and read in different languages, including their mother tongue.

Introducing children to multiple languages ​​early on bridges the gap between home culture, school, and society. It broadens the general perspective of the education system, increases tolerance and promotes respect for cultural diversity. It also teaches kids to look at things from multiple perspectives!

In fact, our country’s new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 also suggests that parents and schools must supplement early education (preferably up to grade VIII) in a regional language or their mother tongue. Several studies have also shown that when new languages ​​are read and learned at a young age, they are acquired faster, remembered better, and spoken more cleanly.

Regular reading in the mother tongue promotes personal and behavioral development, the knowledge of many languages ​​and enables a broader range of emotions to be expressed.

Multilingual reading involves more than just learning the ability to speak another language:

  • Contact with the mother tongue improves empathy – When children start reading and conversing in their mother tongue, they are introduced to the customs and values ​​of their society. This encourages them to think about cultural sensitivity.
  • Increased gripping force – Children who read and write more than one language have a learning advantage, are less inhibited and open to discovering / accepting changes and new perspectives.
  • Extended vision– Every language has its style, its language, its cultural references and its heritage. Dealing with these features helps children think more, nurture ideologies, strengthen vocabulary and grammatical variation, equipping them with the right tools to understand the world in entirely new ways.
  • More positive attitude – Children who were exposed to other languages ​​at an early age show a more positive attitude towards the cultures associated with these languages. That makes them more curious, more tolerant and more optimistic.
  • Increased academic performance – The cognitive benefits of learning multiple languages ​​have a direct impact on a child’s academic performance. Bilingual or multilingual children have better reading and writing skills and sharpen their analytical and logical skills.
  • Strengthened mental performance – Learning a second language promotes problem-solving skills, critical thinking and listening skills, as well as memory, concentration and the ability to multitask. Children who speak other languages ​​also show signs of increased creativity and mental flexibility.
  • Newer Opportunities – Small children can learn several languages ​​at the same time. Not only do you naturally navigate multilingual environments, acquiring a second language early in life trains the brain to learn multiple other languages, opening up a world of opportunity for later.
  • In my opinion, this applies to any learning – enrich your sources of information and experiences – and you will see better results.

    – Aswin Vijayaraghavan is Teacher, AVP Media and Creative Content at BYJU’S. Views expressed are personal.


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