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Learner readers - when should non-British English fiction be introduced?

(14 Posts)
Bonsoir Tue 27-Sep-11 08:51:50

My DD (6.10) is reading books at around gold/white book band level, with occasional forays into lime. She has learned to read using an English reading scheme and English books and British English is her first language (though school's first language is French).

School has her reading Level 3 of the American I Can Read series. My issue is that DD has less exposure to phonics and the written word than a monolingual child and I feel that getting her to read books with American spelling/vocabulary at so early an age is going to confuse her. Am I fussing for nothing or is this a legitimate concern?

Runoutofideas Tue 27-Sep-11 09:22:14

My dd1 is a similar age and similar reading level to yours, although is mono-lingual. I think if she was given books with American English I would ask her to see if she could spot the differences and say how we would spell/express it in British English. Does the school offer more than one reading scheme, or is it all American? Do they have a British English scheme she could be reading instead, or have you been doing that with her at home?

I would just continue with a wide range of books reading scheme and non reading scheme out of school. My dd at the moment loves Enid Blyton's Secret Sevens and Malory Towers etc.

I think the American aspect only really becomes an issue if she does become very confused, although having said that I think that probably it is a good thing to learn that there are different ways of saying the same thing, depending on where you come from.

ZZZenAgain Tue 27-Sep-11 09:25:48

I think the different spelling is minimal so I wouldn't worry too much about that. I just always said, Americans don't write neighbour with a U for instance and left it at that. They just learn that various words exist alongside each other, so that garbage and rubbish and trash are all pretty much the same thing.

I don't think your dd will adopt American phraseology and vocabulary unless it is also being modelled to her by teachers/friends. or on TV

Bonsoir Tue 27-Sep-11 09:27:22

DD is bilingual and her main language of instruction is French so she also needs to read in French - in matter of fact, she really needs to read more in French than in English. I try to read a more difficult text to her once or twice a week - she is very keen on the idea of Shakespeare at the moment so I have read her a children's version of The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew - and she might read one other non-school English book, in addition to the three she gets from school. But she cannot manage more than that. This is really the issue - bilingual children only read half as much in each language as monolingual children and so their exposure to the written word in either language is much less great. This is why I am worried about her spelling.

Runoutofideas Tue 27-Sep-11 09:40:40

I think your "half as much" in English is still an awful lot more than most mono-lingual English children would generally read or be exposed to in a week, so I really wouldn't worry. She'll have the benefit of being completely fluent in both languages which will completely outweigh a rogue Americanism.

DeWe Tue 27-Sep-11 09:47:47

Both my girls were reading US books at that age. They didn't find it confusing, just commented that the author couldn't spell grin

Bonsoir Tue 27-Sep-11 09:49:48

LOL, DD is very good at pointing out differences in accent between British and US speakers of English so I will keep an eye out to check on whether she notices the differences in spelling!

ZZZenAgain Tue 27-Sep-11 09:50:07

If they are using an American reading scheme at the bilingual school, does this mean the English stream is being taught American English generally? By which I mean : is she going to be expected to write with American spellings later on at school or are they learning British English with the exception of these reading books?

Bonsoir Tue 27-Sep-11 10:07:59

ZZZen - no! Which is why I am so hmm about the I Can Read books. The "scheme" they use at school is (old-style out dated) ORT, then I Can Read, then a mixture of Treetops All Stars (British) and Usborne (British) banded readers. And the teachers are mostly British.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Tue 27-Sep-11 13:41:53

I think you're probably fussing tbh, although I can understand that being reading books from school, that these are therefore "official". I can only think back to when ds was that age - at home he had (and still does) plenty of American books.

Also they're exposed to plenty of American spellings and terminology through cartoons and so on, even if they don't spend hours in front of the less naice children's TV channels.

I can't see that it's had a negative effect on ds's reading - he's doing fine.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Tue 27-Sep-11 13:45:34

Thinking back to our own childhoods, we managed fine with Sesame Street and reading Harold and the Purple Crayon, and a bit later with Charlotte's Web and so on.

Bonsoir Fri 30-Sep-11 17:44:17

I got even more fed up with the latest book so emailed the teacher yesterday politely asking for a more challenging read for DD. This resulted in her being pulled out of class today by the Head of English (who knows and loves DD!) and her deputy and her reading being tested. She has come back home tonight with a much better, more challenging and more fun British book!

Tenebrist Fri 30-Sep-11 18:48:08

Good to hear that she has a more suitable book now.

Back to your original query, I suspect it's nothing to worry about. My DD's are also bilingual and were taught to read in an English-German school. The school policy is officially to teach British English, but several teachers are American/Canadian and there are a lot of American books in the library. In practice it has led to no confusion whatsoever, perhaps because bilingual, 'international' children are so much better at accepting plurality as the norm anyway. DD1 is now 13 and just accepts that you can spell colour with or without the u, for example. The English-language teachers at grammar school (half the subjects are taught in English) spell according to their own background, but I would be rather annoyed if she got marked down for using British English instead of the American spelling (and vice versa).

I certainly wouldn't say that their reading is any less competent than monolinguals, in either language. It seems to me it's not the case that they have 50% of their time for each language, so each only gets 50% of the attention - there's something of a synergy effect whereby fluency/competence in one language seems to bolster the other. And just to confuse the matter, there are individual preferences - DD1 says she's slightly more fluent reading English (but has no trouble reading Schiller or other classical German literature), whereas DD2 clearly prefers reading German fiction and English non-fiction.

Tenebrist Fri 30-Sep-11 18:49:34

Oh good grief, it must be late, I can't believe I wrote DD's! I'm supposed to be an editor.

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