Biliteracy is a person’s ability to proficiently read and write in two languages. Statistics show that many of the students currently enrolled in our educational system live in biliterate homes. Typically, the parents speak Spanish or another foreign language, while the kids speak English, as they are learning English at school. Additionally, with the growing popularity of bilingual and dual language programs, many English speaking or monolingual parents are now trying to learn Spanish alongside their kids.
Various studies demonstrate that learning a second language in a person’s native language is the most effective route to biliteracy. Additionally, literacy skills in a person’s first language help to forge a solid foundation of concepts, skills, and understanding that are transferred to literacy skills in a second language. Overall, literacy proficiency in a person’s first or native language helps to foster conceptual and academic advancement.
When the concept of biliteracy is found in bilingual homes, one language does not serve as a substitute or replace language or literacy skills in the other language. If that were to occur, that would be counterproductive to the overall goal or essence of biliteracy. It is important to recognize that there is no set transition into literacy in English. Instead, literacy in English or another second language occurs simultaneously with literacy instruction in the native or first language.
In order to promote biliteracy in bilingual homes, organizations such as Lectura Books offer bilingual books for people of all ages. That way, parents can read to and with their kids to foster bilingualism and biliteracy. At the same time, they are helping to preserve their culture, while learning about another. Additionally, the Latino Family Literacy Project offers webinars and in-person workshops, which can help bilingual or English Learner parents interact with their children in regard to their education.