A recent study revealed that Latino kids are "half as likely to have family members read to them, and a third less likely to be sung to or have stories told to" compared to their white, non-Latino peers. This basically means that Latino kids are starting kindergarten with a clear disadvantage over non-Latino kids who are also more likely to attend preschool!

When my son was diagnosed deaf, his speech therapist gave me three tips that I credit for my son's success. He is now 17.  He is profoundly deaf but uses a cochlear implant to "hear" and he ranks among the top 5% in his high school. I promise you that if you and your family implement these tips from birth through Kindergarten, it will pay off for the rest of their lives!

Read more ¿Qué más?: 6 Fun videos in Spanish to share with your bilingual kids

1. Talk, Talk, Talk. Narrate every single thing you do when you're with them from morning until night time. When you are dressing your baby or toddler describe out loud what you're doing. For example "get up sleepy head!" "we're going to get dressed now" "I am waking you up, I am getting you dressed, I'm putting on your socks" and so on. Bombard them with words in the context of what you are doing. Repetition (which for a deaf toddler means repeating each word a thousand times versus a hundred times for a hearing child) is key. 

2. Read to them and instill the love of reading. My son's therapist said "if you can instill the love of reading in Michael, he'll be just fine!" I read a book or two every night. I'd take him to the  library and have him listen to others read. I'd bring the book's characters to life by acting them out and making up funny voices. I'd read in Spanish and English. When I couldn't read, I'd ask a friend or family member. You can ask someone at your local school to do it for "community service." American and Spanish poems, songs and nursery rhymes are also an important part of the mix!  And, as they grow, set time aside at home to read as a family and make sure that they read on their own! (At the end of the article, I include a list of my favorite authors and books as recommended by my son's speech therapist.)

3. Immerse them in thematic experiences that bring about new words. When Michael's therapist said that I needed to immerse him in animal sounds and words related to animals, I took him to the Zoo and I took him to the petting zoo every week for a year! When she said "this month we're doing words and themes around the earth and space" our entire family went to the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Think about vocabulary in the context of themes and bring them to life through books, talking and immersing them in the relevant experience.

It took seven years of professional and intense therapy, talking (more than I have ever talked in my life), reading and immersing him in the thematic experiences for my son to succeed beyond everyone's expectations. Best of all we did everything en familia and my daughter also benefited from it!

My future and yours is in the hands of Latino children. Let's give them a head start rather than put them at a disadvantage.

The following list of books, most of which are available in Spanish, is great because they are visual, repetitive and rhythmic.

1. Dr. Seuss:

  • The Cat in The Hat
  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • Oh, The Places You'll Go
  • Go Dog Go
  • There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System

2. Eric Carle: 

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? 
  • Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
  • The Grouchy Ladybug
  • Around the Farm: Play-a-Sound; Opposites

3. Robert Munsch (my and my kids' favorite because he uses lots of humor):

  • Love You Forever/Siempre te querre (one of my favorites/I'd sing it to my kids every night)
  • Stephanie's Ponytail/La cola de caballo de Estefanía
  • Mortimer, I have to go!/Mortimer
  • ¡Tengo que hacer pipí!
  • The Paperbag Princess/La Princesa Vestida con una Bolsa de Papel
  • A Promise Is a Promise

4. Ezra Jack Keats:

  • The Snowy Day/Un Dia de Nieve
  • Whistle for Willie/Silbale a Willie
  • Peter's Chair/La Silla de Pedro

5. Margaret Wise Brown:

  • Good Night Moon/Buenas Noches Luna
  • Big Red Barn/El Gran Granero Rojo
  • The Runaway Bunny/El Conejo Andarin

6. Jan Brett:

  • The Mitten/El Mitón
  • The Hat/El Gorro de Lana
  • Gingerbread Baby
  • Town Mouse Country Mouse

7. Ludwig Bemelmans:

  • Madeline -- This series of books about a girl who goes to a Catholic boarding school in Paris was my daughter's favorite.

8. Arnold Lobel:

  • Frog and Toad Are Friends/Sapo y Sepo son amigos
  • Mouse Soup/Sopa de Raton
  • Frog and Toad Together/Sapo y Sepo, Inseparables
The following book series were among my son's favorites.
 

9. Dav Pilkey:

  • Captain Underpants (Las Aventuras del Capitán Calzoncillos)

10. Jeff Kiney:

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Diario de Greg) 
Image via Micah Taylor/Flickr
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About the author
Lucia, Co-founder and EVP of MamásLatinas, has led Hispanic media brands such as Univision's Galavision, MTV tr3s and People en Español. When Lucia is not traveling for work or in her office in NYC, she's at home with her husband and two children in New Rochelle, New York. 

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One would never know that Michael is deaf when he has his device on thanks to your amazing input and perseverance. You have been amazing!
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That's so awesome
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