Bilingual Is Better
A book overview of Bilingual Is Better by Ana L. Flores and Roxana A. Soto, a book dedicated to debunking old stereotypes while shedding light on topics like bilingual education and cultural heritage. A blend of personal anecdotes and research.
Who should read this book? According to the authors, "bilingual Latino parents, monolingual American parents who are starting to realize why they should raise children to be bilingual, and everyone in between!"
"Our culture, our traditions, our language are the foundations upon which we build our identity."
I chose to read the book in chronological chapter order, however this book can be picked up and turned to the chapter or subheading with the topic that most interests you, the reader. Overall, it was a smooth read, easy to follow and fun to read the authors' personal anecdotes pertaining to each specific chapter.
As always, I must remind you that I am not writing a spark-note version of the book, but rather am selective in sharing my biggest take aways or most unique part of the book.
I loved how the authors took the time to provide readers with a brief yet detailed overview of the historical immigration trends of Latinos in the United States. It reminded me of my Ethnic Studies courses in college. They also make great points for the benefits of raising bilingual children backed with specific research and studies recently published. They also go through common methods of raising bilingual children, which you can find here. They share the importance of bilingual education programs and how parents can be advocates for such opportunities in their community. The authors end their book with a conversation about identity, assimilation and biculturalism.
As an educator I was moved by the authors' passion regarding bilingual education programs. Did you know that Ohio became the first state to adopt a bilingual education law to allow instruction in German and English in 1839? Unfortunately bilingual education in America has seen its fair share of limitations - usually coinciding with immigration and political shifts. Language and social oppression was strong in the 1800s when congress passed legislation prohibiting Native Americans from being taught in their native languages, to the point where children were separated from their families for this to be completely avoided. With the wave of Cuban immigration in the 1960s this particular group never completely assimilated keeping their language and heritage in tact. This lead to private schools with Spanish instruction and dual language immersion public schools to be opened in Florida. During the Civil Rights Movement Congress passed the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 allocating federal funds to school for the purpose of encouraging native language instruction in all schools. Most recently, No Child Left Behind in 2002 demanded the use of English-only standardized tests to measure schools' performances and made bilingual education a means to making sure non-English speakers became proficient as soon as possible (3 year limit) and limiting or eliminating their native language. Legislation such as Prop 227 in California, has put it back in the hands of parents, allowing them to request and enroll their children in alternative programs such as dual immersion programs. In order for dual language programs to be truly be effective, they need the full-on parent advocates and participation. You can lead a movement in your community or enroll your children in schools that offer such programs. Below is a list of how we as parents can be community advocates for bilingual education:
First Generation (immigrants to the US) learn enough English to survive but conduct themselves mostly in Spanish in their daily lives.
Second Generation (their children) who were either born here or came with them at a very young age - maintain their native language which is mostly spoken but conduct themselves mainly in English in their daily lives.
Third Generation (their grandchildren) born in the US speak only English.
This trend is supported by research data from The Pew Hispanic Center which also provide numbers such as: 79% of second generation Latinos are proficient in Spanish while a slim 38% of third generation Latinos are proficient in their native language. That is a drastic drop!
Again, these trends and numbers show that having chosen to raise bilingual children is of upmost importance. Advocating for bilingual education programs and providing opportunities for the use of a family's native language at home are key factors in reversing these dangerous outcomes.
Remembering my years watching Reading Rainbow, "but you don't have to take my word for it!" Please, pick up a copy to fully take advantage of this well written work.