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Raise A Bilingual Child! 'Use English Storybooks But Tell The Story In Filipino'
  • Studies have shown that learning at least two languages has a number of brainy benefits — it can contribute to increased intelligence and make children more socially adept and in tune with others, compared to kids who only speak one language. The only problem: most children nowadays do not grow up with Filipino as their first language.


    On the fourth episode of SmartParenting.com.ph’s  How Po online webinar titled, “Become Your Child’s Best Teacher! How To Do Preschool At Home,” a concerned mother asked how she can make her child understand Filipino books.

    Learning Filipino language is a matter of exposure, according to Vanessa Bicomong,  a mom of two and director of the Learning Library, an enrichment and tutorial center that specializes in reading and Filipino language skills. “If you do not speak Filipino to your child, if your child does not hear any language during his waking hours, it will be difficult for them to achieve fluency,” she explains.

    How do I make my child bilingual?

    The magic number according to Vanessa is 30 percent of a child’s waking hours — 4 hours a day. “Kung ang bata po hindi nakakarinig ng Filipino, hindi niya maiintindihan ‘yang Filipino book na ‘yan,” the director adds.

    She encourages parents to start learning Filipino at home, starting at a young age. “Kung pwede, mag-Tagalog kayo sa bahay hanggang sa mag-preschool ang anak ninyo,” she says.


    If your child finds it hard to understand Filipino words, Vanessa says you really have to translate for them. “You have to be a living dictionary when you’re reading a Filipino book to your child. There’s no other way — they will not be able to understand the concepts.”

    And don’t worry if all your books are in English. It’s the perfect way to raise a bilingual child! Vanessa shares a handy trick that she’s used with her two children. “Ang ginagawa ko, ‘yung storytelling is in Filipino, pero ginagamit ko ‘yung storybook in English,” she says.

    “Gawa kayo ng sarili ninyong version! Para maintindihan ng bata, use the vocabulary and the language level of your child. And the book will not go to waste,” the mom adds.

    Filipino storybooks your children will like

    Vanessa says that choosing a Filipino storybook will depend on your child’s fluency in Filipino, plus their experiences in relation to the topic. But for starters, here are three books that she recommends.

    Ang Itim Na Kuting


    by Natasha Vizcarra with illustrations by Ferdinand Guevara
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Adarna Books
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    by Jomike Tejido
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    The perfect Halloween read! It tells the story of Sophia, a little girl who is afraid of ghosts and other scary creatures. To ease her fears, her grandfather tells her what to do if she ever encounters different Filipino mythological creatures like the tikbalang, tiyanak, aswang, kapre, manananggal, multo, siyokoy, tiktik, bungisngis and nuno sa punso. Don’t worry, it’s not so scary, since it’s done through a series of rhymes that actually makes the creature appear fun to be with! 

    Ay Naku!


    by Reni Roxas with illustrations by Serj Bumatay III
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Tahanan Books


    It has a simple story that makes it the perfect first Filipino book for young kids. It tells the day in the life of a child named Botbot, using only 65 Filipino words. Through this book, your child can learn about traditional games like trumpo, sipa, and sungka, plus how to respect the elderly by using ‘po’ and ‘Opo.’ Toddlers can’t help but love the main character, because his mischievous ways are relatable!


    Looking for more books that you can read your toddler? Click here for our top books! For more ways to raise a bilingual child, click here.

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