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View: Why reading in more than one language is vital for children

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Regular reading sessions in one’s mother tongue spurs personality and behavioural development, knowledge of many languages, and gives a way to express a broader range of emotions.

View: Why reading in more than one language is vital for children
There are two very fundamental processes that complement learning, i.e., reading and language. For the longest time, humankind has been exploring ‘language’ as to whether it is emergent or innate. There has been an ongoing debate on whether ‘reading’ is only a visual process (where we interpret visual symbols).
Well, the explorations are not conclusive. Yet, we are sure they help not only in gaining new knowledge, but also in gaining skills and neural pathways that help us learn new things better.
Reading encourages a child’s mind to wander into many modes of thought - multiple senses are triggered and multiple meanings are derived. Inculcating this habit of reading among children at an early age sets the base for a strong learning journey ahead and boosts their cognitive development.
However, I believe, reading in more than one language — especially one that includes native tongue — can go a long way in widening a child’s learning horizon.
While English is most commonly the first language in schools, parents must chime in to provide their children with a holistic learning experience at home — by making them speak and read in different languages, including their native language.
Introducing children to read multiple languages, at an early age, bridges the gap between the culture at home, the school, and society. It broadens the general outlook of the education system, increases tolerance, and fosters respect for cultural diversity. It also teaches children to look at things from multiple perspectives!
In fact, our nation’s new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 also suggests that parents and schools must supplement early education (preferably until Class VIII) in a regional language or their mother tongue. Several pieces of research have also shown that new languages, if read and learned at an early age, are acquired faster, retained better, and spoken cleaner.
Regular reading sessions in one’s mother tongue spurs personality and behavioural development, knowledge of many languages, and gives a way to express a broader range of emotions.
There’s more to multi-lingual reading than just acquiring a skill to speak another language:
  1. Exposure to native tongue improves empathy
  2. – When kids start to read and converse in their mother tongue, they’re introduced to customs and values belonging to their society. This encourages them to think about cultural sensitivity.
  3. Increased grasping power - Children who read and write in more than one language have a learning advantage, are less inhibited, and open to exploring/accepting changes and new perspectives.
  4. Expanded vision- Each language has its style, idioms, cultural references, and heritage. Exposure to these features helps kids think more, boost ideologies, strengthen vocabulary and grammatical variation, thereby equipping them with the right tools to understand the world in completely new ways.
  5. More positive attitude - Children exposed early to other languages display more positive attitudes to the cultures associated with those languages. It makes them more curious, tolerant, and optimistic.
  6. Boosted Academic Achievement - The cognitive benefits of learning multiple languages have a direct impact on a child’s academic achievement. Bilingual or multilingual children have better reading and writing skills and sharpen their analytical and logical abilities.
  7. Strengthened mental ability – Learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask. Children proficient in other languages also show signs of enhanced creativity and mental flexibility.
  8. Newer opportunities – Young children can learn multiple languages at the same time. Not only do they naturally navigate multilingual environments, acquiring a second language early in life trains the brain to learn multiple other languages, opening a world of opportunities for later on.
  9. In my opinion, this is true of any learning - make the information sources and experiences richer - and you will see better outcomes.
    – Aswin Vijayaraghavan is a Teacher, AVP Media, and Creative Content at BYJU’S. Views expressed are personal.

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