Language Books – Where to Get ‘Em

Finding great language resources that fit your child’s interests can be a full-time job by itself. I would find amazing (and age-appropriate) storybooks in Chinese, but within a few months, my son would outgrow the book, and then I was back where I started – spending hours trying to find more books. And, if you’re child is like most, their interests change so quickly that keeping them engaged in learning the target language takes some creativity.

But, did you know that you CAN create your own audiobooks? I didn’t either until I tried it! Here’s what I did (and you can do the same thing for cheaper than you think)

Take one of their favorite books and translate it. I found some great resources on YouTube like this video here. And, my son had the same book in English. I found a freelance translator on UpWork who translated the entire book into Chinese AND recorded the audio of her reading the book for $45. I then went to a talented videographer on Fiverr, and he was able to take the scanned pictures of the book and weave it into a language masterpiece! Even better, this only cost me another $20. So, it may sound a bit pricey to spend $65 for one book, but this is a lasting audiobook/video you can use with other children. If you know of other families who are teaching their child the same language, you could split the cost. For me, I approached three other monolingual families, like mine, who were immersing their kids in Chinese and we split the cost three ways. So for the same cost of just one book, we all were able to use the video over and over again!  Over the past year, I have had several classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Corduroy, The Gruffalo and The Little Blue Truck translated into six different languages, like this one in German.

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Buy bilingual books. If you’re willing to put in some research, you can find many reputable book sites that have translated books, or even better, books in both the target language and in English. Language Lizard is an amazing resource that you have to check out. Their books are offered in over a dozen different languages, and with their PENpal Audio Recorder Pen you can have the book read to your child in the target language!

Buy translated books in the target language and hire a storyteller. This may sound a bit unorthodox at first glance, but it works! When my son was a toddler, I wanted to immerse him in as much Chinese as possible. The audio books were okay, but with his short attention span, playing a recording just didn’t cut it – he needed the live action of having someone hold him and read to him. I found some great and affordably priced books in Chinese on China Sprout, but they were all in Chinese. I didn’t want the books to go to waste, so I hired a “storyteller” (at least that is what I called her). I posted ads on Craigslist and Care.com for a babysitter that could come three times a week for one hour and read to my son in Chinese. Sounds like the easiest job ever, right? And, it was! I found a lady who worked close to my house, so three times a week for over six months she would come to my home during her lunch break or right after work. She would spend that time reading to my son in Chinese.

Babysitter reading child book

In that one hour, she would read a handful of books to him, and if he needed to move around, they would play and sing songs in Chinese. My son loved this personal interaction! After a while, he would grab one of the Chinese books, when she was not there, and sit down to read it. He was obviously too young to read it, but looking at the book in Chinese was not “intimidating” to him, and he could even differentiate between our English books and those that were in Chinese. Over time, as his attention span increased, I added more and more Chinese books to our home library. Until now we have over 80 different Chinese storybooks for him to choose from. Now that he is at a Chinese immersion preschool, we’ve donated a lot of them for his teacher to read to his entire class throughout the day. But, if you’re just starting out or want to get your child more language exposure without having to commit to a formal (and often expensive) language class, then hiring a storyteller can be an effective alternative!

Believe it or not, the language books options are more plentiful than you think! If you need more creative ideas to get your child the language exposure they need, drop me a line at Llacey@Our21stCenturyKids.com, and I’ll let you in on some other strategies I used for my son (on a budget).

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