Responding to Readers’ Questions

  • February 13, 2006
  • Henriette Langdon

In the January 2006 edition of ¿Qué Tal?  I responded to some questions coming from readers regarding various issues, most of them surrounding the topic of language intervention for ELL students with various speech and language impairments. This month I will respond to three additional questions.

What information, magazines, catalogs, websites would you offer to Spanish-speaking parents so that they can acquire more children’s literature in Spanish?

When I wish to promote the importance of books and literacy I offer the parent a rationale for the importance of exposing their child or children to a rich language/ literacy/print environment. Many of the parents I work with have not had much experience with formal education. However, they want the best for their children and they truly believe in learning and education. We talk about the importance of communication and pride in the family’s cultural and linguistic background. To enhance the children’s language and cognitive development we talk about the importance of oral language communication. And, to take one step further, I relate the significance of telling stories and conversation. Today, most schools and city libraries carry titles in Spanish, Therefore, I encourage parents to go to their local library, review the Spanish section and consult with the librarian.

Our roles as SLPs (whether bilingual or monolingual) are very broad.  We play multiple roles in multiple settings often with limited resources available to us. However, we can make a difference by carrying out our mission to promote language development and literacy. Joining forces with the school’s effort in emphasizing the importance that parents play in their child’s education and lives is important.

As you explore resources on the Internet you will find quite a few sites that may be potentially helpful. However, the books in Spanish, as well as other materials, are often adaptations or translations of materials available in English. Two such sites are (it is best to type them): The site below includes a list of more authentic books several written in Spanish. Weber County Library – Spanish Children’s Books and there are others as well. I have found that mega bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders carry a fine selection of books written in Spanish. Before we recommend specific books we should be familiar with them. What I have done over the years

    • Peruse local libraries in my neighborhood for titles.
    • Spend time in the mega bookstores looking at titles and buying a few books at a time.
    • Buy books in Spanish when I visit Mexico where I grew up.
      NOTE: A very helpful resource available in both English and Spanish is:
      A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism
      Colin Baker (1995) Clevedon, UK: Multingual Matters.

Spanish Adaptation
Guía Para Padres y Maestros de Niños Bilingües.
Alma Flor Ada and Colin Baker (2001) Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters

The books are divided into several sections such as Family Questions, Language Development Questions, and Questions about Problems.The book is written in a question/ answer format. I am very fond of the Spanish adaptation of the original English book. The book was translated by Dr.Flor Ada, a professor at San Francisco State University.  Dr. Flor Ada is also a children’s books author who writes in Spanish. The books can be ordered through the Internet.

 What do you say to parents who are native (and stronger) Spanish (or non-English) speakers, but try to speak English with their children to facilitate English language learning?

I would answer this question with another question. Are the parents speaking English because they feel like “more English” is the key to success in learning more English? If this were the case, I would tell the parents that :(1) Speaking more English will not help the child learn more English and become proficient more rapidly in the language and, (2) I would emphasize the value of bilingualism.

A monolingual Spanish- speaking mother wishes for her three and a half year- old son to enter into an English-only special education early childhood setting.  She reports that he enjoys speaking in English with his 8-year old brother and “prefers speaking English with him rather than Spanish with her.” Results of a bilingual speech-language evaluation indicate that the child has significantly depressed skills in both languages.  His comprehension skills are markedly higher in Spanish compared to English.  His English expression consists primarily of chunks of automatic speech learned from cartoons and the radio.  How would you help convincing the mother her importance, and therefore the importance of Spanish, in the child’s language development?

Hopefully, the program where you are going to place the child has a strong bilingual component.  I would try to convince the parent that the bilingual setting will offer the child an opportunity to further develop his receptive skills in both languages and thus enhance his language competence in general. I would encourage the parent to continue speaking Spanish to the child, accept his responses and respond to what he says regardless of the language or manner in which says it. I would also hope the parent can understand enough English to respond to the child. I would emphasize the importance of building his receptive language skills in Spanish and emphasize that parent-child communication is very important in the future success of his child’s development. All in all, this scenario is not uncommon.

MARCH 2006
What’s new in the world of assessment materials in Spanish?

As always, I do welcome your comments.

Henriette W. Langdon, Ed.D., F-CCC-SLP
Communicative Disorders & Sciences
College of Education
San José State University
San José, CA 95192-0079
408-924-4019 voice
408-924-3641 fax

Gracias – Thank you.

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