Books over Television

reading to the bilingual child

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

In my previous post, I mentioned that I started my parenting journey with two key philosophies in place. One was that our son would be raised bilingually and the second was that we would limit his exposure to television.

These two things were surprisingly easy when I had just one child, was a stay at home mum, and utterly devoted to raising him to the best of my ability. When number two came along it was a different story, which I will save for another day! 

Today I want to talk about books. 


Reading to the baby

Bilingualism and books go hand in hand. Reading out loud to my son was partly how we taught our kids to speak English and I guess that's also how the older one learned how to read. 

I had seen a book at the library called Babies Need Books by Dorothy Butler. This book became my bible even though I did not own a copy until years later. In it Butler talks about why reading is so valuable for even the youngest child but she also gives recommendations for books that are suitable for and appeal to children at the various ages.

This was solid information for me because at the time there were very few sources for books written in English here in Japan. Amazon was still shipping from the US back then I think. (My son was born in 2001.) I relied on my mother to send books over and when we visited my home country, New Zealand, we loaded our suitcases with every book we could lay our hands on - how heavy those suitcases were! 

I read a lot to my son, every day, morning, noon and night. He had his favourites of course and many are enduring favourites to this day.

From around the age of one I think, he started to watch television in 30-minute doses. There was a kid's tv program called Okaasan to issho on at 8:30am that he was allowed to watch. At 9 o'clock we turned off the tv and got on with our day. 

Over the years we gathered a collection of videotapes (back in those days it was VCR!) and we had a couple of favourite television programs that we enjoyed. But as I said, we restricted television viewing to no more than an hour a day maximum. I think it was easier then. We did not have iPads or iPhones. There was no YouTube. 

We still have a lot of these fabulous books. Some favourite authors / books include:

Shirley Hughes - the Alfie books

Margaret Mahy - a New Zealand legend

The Little Yellow Digger books by Betty and Alan Gilderdale

Anything ever written by Joy Cowley

The Lighthouse Keeper series - I still adore these

And so many more. We have shelves and shelves of books. Boxes of books. I am always trying to give books away! 

We also read books in Japanese (my husband and my son) which we had on a subscription from a book publisher or from the library. The subscription was great. Each month two books arrived in the mail, which were chosen as suitable for his age. As I recall we asked Noah's grandparents to set this up for his second birthday. If you could find something like this I recommend it. 

By the age of four my son Noah was able to read himself. It's hard to remember now but in addition to reading a lot, we also did a lot of craft activities, played with puzzles, Lego and all that kind of stuff which I think allowed him to absorb language easily. I probably encouraged him to read and write but not in a disciplined way. 

He's sixteen next week. He still loves reading. Every night I find him asleep with a book on his face, with a magazine or a newspaper instead of a pillow. 

I'm saving the story of my youngest for another day. The road to reading has been difficult! 

Leave a comment