The Pluses and Minuses of Foreign Language Immersion for your Child

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“My six-year-old daughter, Hannah, recently completed kindergarten in a Mandarin immersion pre-school in the San Francisco Unified School District.  In the last year, Hannah went from speaking only English at home to being taught in Mandarin Chinese for five out of the six hours she is in school – from the first day and every day. All subjects – math, social studies, art, and language arts – are taught in Chinese. She has one hour of English instruction each day.

My wife and I chose this path for Hannah because we believe that bilingualism at an early age brings many advantages. Of course, being able to read and speak Mandarin Chinese will enable Hannah to communicate with a huge population and work with citizens of the world’s second biggest economy. Additionally, the acquisition of any second language, especially one utilizing pictographic characters, fosters extraordinary cognitive development.

However, there is a downside to embarking on foreign language immersion in kindergarten which is the limited time your child spends learning in English. After all, we do expect Hannah to function highly in all aspects of her education and, of course, the United States is still our home – not to mention that we still have the world’s #1 economy and system of higher education.  So how do we ensure that Hannah keeps up with her peers who are learning an additional 25-hours per week of reading and writing in English?

We found a big part of the solution by incorporating Reading Kingdom into Hannah’s daily routine.

In January of this year, my wife was lamenting to another parent that Hannah’s English reading was well behind where she thought it should be for a kindergartner. This parent, whose children are highly successful readers, recommended we look into Reading Kingdom.  As it happens, we were already familiar with Dr. Marion Blank’s book, “The Reading Remedy,” which we had purchased in 2006 for insight into the education of one of our older children (who was also in a Mandarin immersion school) and which greatly helped us to accelerate that child’s English reading skills.  Reading Kingdom’s system differs from conventional phonics-only reading instruction in that it places a unique emphasis on the non-content words (also known as function or “sight” words).  If you have ever torn your hair out watching your child get bogged down reading simple words like “the” or “but,” you will greatly appreciate the effectiveness of Reading Kingdom’s method.

Reading Kingdom brings reading education into the 21st Century. Whereas we had to work with the older children to teach the methods in the book, Hannah can basically teach herself to read and write with the computer version. Most days, we log on to the Reading Kingdom, using Hannah’s personal password. Then we get to sit back as Hannah moves through short but intense exercises tailored to her skill level. She focuses on these lessons and uses the mouse and keyboard to follow voice and screen commands which make her stretch a little more each time.  The Reading Kingdom is easy to use but it’s not “easy.” It makes Hannah think about and work out reading problems, rewards her with praise when she is correct, and gently pushes back when she isn’t. The sessions are just long enough – usually about 15 minutes – and the program gives her the choice of continuing or stopping after a unit is completed.

It is now June and, after six months of using Reading Kingdom, Hannah’s English reading has improved immensely. She is even starting to read books on her own for entertainment.  We are immensely gratified to have found this system and to be able to utilize it as a tool for Hannah’s continued educational success. Whether your kids are in foreign language immersion or not, we highly recommend Reading Kingdom. It’s made a huge difference for us.” – Jonathan Harris (Father of Hannah, age 6)

To know how to raise a reader who is four or older, visit the Reading Kingdom and sign up for a 30 day free trial. Our award-winning, online reading program works with children at multiple levels, including preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and third grade.