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Biliteracy: what to do?

Clown, 5 years

Having become aware of some important elements on the meaning of writing and reading, and the results of scientific research in this field, we turn now to the practice.

Below you’ll find a list of a few tips on how to proceed, step by step, through your child's bilingual literacy. I based myself on personal experience and I’ve elaborated
suggestions proposed by Dr. Xiao Lei Wang , University of Chicago.

Make sure your child is ready

Needless to insist on wanting to teach something to a child who is not ready for this step. Some 5 years old children can already written, others need more time. Important is to start cautiously and be able to stop if you notice that your child follows with difficulty.

Motivating your child

Like anything else, the child must be motivated otherwise imposing a too big sacrifice would not lead to positive results. Let your child see how beautiful it is to read, let’s teach them since their early age  the value of books, the importance of the word. In addition, some simple linguistic strategies will help you : avoid using words like "class", "exercises", "tasks" in favour of more attractive nicknames such as "letters", "games with letters" and so on, so that everything can be more relaxed.


Relax yes, but discipline is essential. Do not think to teach something once in a while. The results will be defective. It's important to follow a program, to have one or more reference books, and to asked yourself questions about which method to follow. Teaching is a profession, it cannot be improvised

How to proceed

There are not better ways than others, a part from the method which you will feel at ease with. Personally, after a long period of letters learning without a strict schedule, but just  when it happened, I adopted a school first-grade book that seemed to fit and I started a page after another.

Note: Each language has its own specific method of teaching. See the
post on ​​opaque and transparent languages.

Observe the child's reaction

You should keep an eye on the child's reaction. If she/he prefers to read, insist on this, he/she likes to write then bets on writing.

Better print or cursive?

Keep in mind that until about 5-6 years the child does not have the fine dexterity required to write italic. My advice is to start with capital letters, even though at times you will be told that it is waste of time since children will have to learn cursive at school. But print letters also allow the younger child to progress in reading and writing, which will a strong motivation for him/her. The transition to cursive should be done gradually with the acquisition of fine manual skills.

What to teach?

Once you have acquired a certain mastery of the alphabet, that is to say that the child is able to associate the sound to the symbol, you are ready to start the planned program for the first grade. Advancing in the program you will realize that there are some specific aspects of language that the child never learn in other contexts: focus on these! Skip the linguistic aspects which are common to the school language of the child, because this will be the teacher’s taks.

Practical example

Here are some relevant graphemes for Italian:  "gn" "gl" "sc" and all combinations with the "c / g + vowel". Insist on these aspects which will never be the subject of study for your child.

I also recommend to initially skip punctuation, sentence structure, at least in Italian. Certainly, in a language with a complex structure as may be German, for example, it will be important to focus on sentence structure since this is rigid and imposes essential rules on the verb position.


Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them via the discussion forum!



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