How to introduce chapter books to a bilingual child

Copy of Which language should I speak to my bilingual baby- (2)

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I provide six steps on how bilingual parents can introduce chapter books to their children.  This is a follow on from a previous episode (episode 127) where I chatted with one of the members from the Bilingual Avenue Members’ Club on reading strategies for her children.

The Question

For today’s question I am going to piggy back off my last episode.  If you haven’t yet checked it out, make sure to listen to episode 127 where I chat with one of the members in the Bilingual Avenue Members’ Club, Conchi Manresa.

During our call, Conchi was looking for ways to help her daughter transition to more complicated text.

We spent some time chatting about chapter books and so I wanted to dedicate this effort to focus on that topic.

If you have listened to the show before, you KNOW that I absolutely love using books as a powerful way to provide exposure to the target language.  It simply is a MUST.

I have also challenged you to read aloud to your children for at least 5 minutes  a day.  Just that simple act will lead to over 30 hours of reading aloud time in a year. 

That’s a really powerful figure!

But have you considered chapter books?

The answer

We sometimes see chapter books as something that will come much later on the language journey but it does not have to be!

You can start introducing books much earlier than you would think. 

At the time of this recording, my daughter is four months shy of her fourth birthday…. sounds scary to even say that, she is growing up so fast!

And I am already starting to dig through some possibilities to see what kind of simple chapter books in Spanish I can start to read to her.

And that’s the beauty of reading to your children.  Children are capable of listening to books and stories at a higher level than they can read and that’s if they can read at all.

What I’d like to do in this episode is talk to you about how you can get started with chapter books as a family!

  1. Start with picture books

If you do not yet have a reading routine, let’s not wait any longer and get one started.

Reading at bedtime can be a beautiful bonding family ritual so that tends to be a natural time of day for families to dedicate to reading. 

However, for some families that time can be hectic or maybe you are not home every night.  If that’s the case, then find some kind of routine that works for your family.  Yet at a minimum make it a personal goal to read for at least 5 minutes with your children every day. 

If you are serious about introducing chapter books into your home life, you may need a bit more time than just five minutes.  But if you have not started, keep it simple so that ultimately it becomes manageable and you can indeed make it happen on a daily basis.

2. Do not replace picture books!

Reading chapter books have many benefits but they should not replace picture books.  They are meant to go hand in hand.

There are certain reading comprehension skills that can only really be taught from pIcture books including

1)  the ability to interpret imagery and visuals based on the information in the text,

2) internalizing the concept that there is more to a story than the written words and

3) last but certainly not least that illustrations in a story allows a child to visualize a story in their own mind!

Make sure to keep plenty of picture books around and not to substitute this resource.

3. Read the same stories

When selecting your first sets of chapter books, have your child read on their own a chapter book that you have already read to them!

Your child will be able to leverage their previous knowledge about the story and use that context to navigate through the chapter book on their own.  We want our children to feel confident in those first interactions with chapter books so that their interest in them grows!

Your homework as a parent is to make notes of which chapter books your children enjoyed the most so that you can tap into their natural interests.

4. Embrace reading series

Another fun way to introduce your children to chapter books is through series.  Chapter book series allow your child to follow a character through different adventures. 

Once you get your child hooked on one particular series, they will likely be eager to pick up a story from the series.

5. Be prepared

Once your child is ready to transition and read books on their own, there will be some ups and downs.  Be prepared for them and stay patient!  There may be be times when your child gets frustrated and overwhelmed by the text. 

Make sure you are there to encourage them and support them. Above all, try not to be too pushy.  I challenge you to find that balance between encouraging and motivating your child while also keeping a pace that is pleasing to your child.

6. Celebrate the learning process

We want to encourage our children to read because of the many literacy benefits that stem from reading!

And we also want our children to read so that they can continue to grow their vocabulary. 

Encourage your child to celebrate and appreciate their own growth.  I would encourage you to set aside a notebook or even make a board for your child’s room where they can jot down all the news words that they are learning. 

This is not only a visual collection of what they are learning but also create an incentive for your children to keep reading and keep learning!!

There you have it!   Six steps and ideas on how you can introduce chapter books and maximize the experience with your children!

I hope as always that you find this episode helpful and that you got a little bit more inspiration to keep reading flowing in your home!!

I’d love to hear how it goes!

To catch the show notes from today’s episode, head over to

May you have fun travels on your language journey.  Hope to see you again on the Avenue!


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