If your third grader is learning English and can now read books by herself in English, be proud.

But it may make you wonder about your role. Now that she can read at a level in English that may be difficult for you, should you stop reading together in your home language?

Many parents face this common fork in the road. At what point should parents consider reading a solo project for their child to handle? For parents whose children are learning to read in another language, this question may arrive sooner rather than later.

The answer is that both kinds of reading have real value for your child’s short-term and long-term success.

Benefits of kids reading independently in English

Reading alone in English will build your child’s fluency in English. She’ll learn English vocabulary, grammar, and concepts that will help her in school.

It will also help your child build an independent reading habit, something that research shows is highly correlated with long-term success in school.

Benefits of reading aloud to your child in your home langauge

By continuing to read to your child in your home language, you will help grow her biliteracy — a cultural treasure and an employable skill that many American schools don’t have the resources (or the wisdom) to support. Reading with your child gives you important time to talk about what you’ve read, ask and answer questions about the story, and make connections between concepts in the book and other things your child has learned. This helps kids develop their higher reading skills, such as reading comprehension and learning to connect concepts from different subject areas.

One of the biggest educational risks is when kids grow up and decide they don’t like reading. You may help reduce this risk by making sure your reading time together is enjoyable. In a few years, the happy memory of this time together may help your child push through a reading challenge with a positive attitude.

Finally, don’t be afraid to connect what you read to personal stories about your childhood, your parents and grandparents, and where you grew up. Family stories can help your child feel a strong sense of connection to their heritage and can help her experience the benefits of biliteracy first hand: speaking, reading, and writing two languages opens your life to new, meaningful stories.

Extra: the benefits of reading aloud to your child in English

Don’t be afraid to mix it up and read with your child in English — even if your English skills are not as strong as your child’s. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is for them to watch you struggle and learn something new. By being a role model for lifelong learning, you give them a gift that they will draw on for the rest of their life.

Key takeaways

  1. Encourage your child to build a habit of reading independently in English.
  2. Continue to read with your child in your home language to build her thinking skills, her biliteracy, and her love of reading.
  3. Have your child start reading aloud to you in English. Everyone benefits!