When we start on the multi-literacy journey we are full of motivation, plan many activities, and spend (a lot of) time doing it. But after the initial enthusiasm, we might feel a loss of energy, and be overwhelmed by the amount of time it takes to prepare these literacy sessions, no matter how fun they might be for our children. So even if our children are enjoying learning to read and write in our home languages, we might be the one struggling to keep up, and feeling overwhelmed!
This blog post is dedicated to all the parents who might be feeling down because staying consistent is not that easy, because life happens and we might have needed to prioritise other things over our child’s multi-literacy, because we are feeling like we are letting our children down.
"I feel guilty for not doing more!"
Especially when we know what to do, we can feel guilty not to be doing it! (I know I do!) We might see the moment we have scheduled to prepare our literacy session or the moment we were supposed to work on literacy slip by … because something came up … or maybe simply because we “just wanted to relax a bit”. This happens once, twice, three times, and then the habits we had established or were in the process of establishing disappears …
So what can we do about that?
Most importantly, let’s remember that the multi-literacy journey needs to be ENJOYABLE for our children, but for us too! This positive feeling is what is going to keep everyone involved going. Let’s remember as well that it will keep our children’s interest and motivation up. As a result, they will be more likely to read and/or write in our home languages from their own initiatives.
"I don’t have time to plan these literacy sessions!"
Time is scarce, so we need to be efficient. Let me use a little comparison with riding a bike to illustrate what the multi-literacy journey generally looks like.
At the beginning, we need to put a lot of effort pedaling, and finding our balance. Once the bike has started moving, it becomes easier to press on the pedals and the centripetal force (the wheels turning) help us keep our balance.
In the same way, it is normal to spend quite a lot of time and energy at the beginning of our journey, figuring out different aspects of our sessions (when to do the lessons, what kind of activities will engage our child, etc). It might take some time to find our balance, but once we found it, each kick on the pedal will require less effort on our part. Planning our session, finding ideas or resources, preparing or creating the resources will all be done more easily and faster. For more details on how to create a literacy habit successfully with our children, please check this post on New Year's Resolutions.
Cut down on the preparation time.
There are different resources available online (free or at a small charge). Scroll through Instagram to find various creators, or check websites such as www.teacherspayteachers.com . For English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and soon Korean and German, you can also download my resources packs at https://www.library4multilinguals.com/shop (FREE Mini-Resources Packs are also available).
Take an hour one evening a month to find as many resources as possible. They will help you minimise your preparation time.
When preparing resources, remember that you do not have to create pretty resources if they will only be used once. Spending 45 minutes creating something that will only be used for 5-10 minutes and then never again, will rapidly become frustrating.
If you don’t have time, make time.
This might sound a little harsh, but hear me out. Preparing and planning activities for our children to work on literacy in their home languages does not need to take long. It is often the thought of having to come up with ideas that can feel overwhelming, especially at the beginning. So, let us see when we could squeeze some preparation time. Could it be on our journey to or from work? Or while we are waiting for our children at one of their extra-curricular activities? Let’s review our week and see when we could find that necessary time. Chances are that you will find that time. Once you’ve found it, block it, ring-fence it, so that you can dedicate your time to preparing your child’s literacy session. (On this matter, I invite you to check out this video about Balancing Effort and Fun while teaching our children )
"I can’t carry on that way!"
If it still feels too much, maybe it is because it ACTUALLY is. Let’s review our plan.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, famously said “A Goal Without a Plan Is Just a Wish”. It is important here to note that a plan is personal to each family and will need to be adapted according to our changing circumstances. There are multiple ways to reach a goal. We “just” need to find what works for us.
The most important thing is to keep going, keep the momentum. If on a weekly basis, we are trying to implement several things to support our children on their multi-literacy journey, let’s figure out what is the ONE habit we will carry on no matter what. Which habit requires the least amount of effort but happens frequently enough? For us, it has been to read a bedtime stories or listen to short podcast episodes in our home languages a few times a week (Some days they will be in our home languages, and other days, in the school language).
In your family, what is the ONE habit you will carry on, no matter what?
Let us keep in mind as well that even though we are trying to help our children improve their writing skill, that ONE habit can involve reading, rather than writing. Indeed, exposing our children to the written form of our languages is an important aspect of developing writing skills.
Finally, let’s not forget opportunities for our children to practice on their own. (Please note that this can happen only if our children see reading and/or writing in their home languages as a way to access more fun). This independent practice IS practice!
These opportunities could be:
Having books in our home languages that our children WANT to read (Read this blog post on The Benefits of Comic Books for Multilingual Children )
Games that require your child to read in order to play. My sons for example, love this magic potion set called “Fabulus Potium” (in French) where ingredients and instructions to follow to create chemical reactions (the fun part) are written in our home language.
Following a recipe to cook or bake has the same impact.
In a nutshell:
- Let’s focus on keeping the journey ENJOYABLE for our children AND for us.
- If we don’t have time, let’s try to cut down on the preparation time by using resources available, and only creating beautiful resources if they are going to be reused.
- If we feel overwhelmed, let’s find that ONE habit we want to keep going, even when we have to pause or stop all the others. And let’s create opportunities for our children to read and write from their own initiative.
Reminder: As a parent, we can only do the best we can do. And that’s enough!