Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature | Spanish Linguistics | Spanish Literature
Welcome To My House, Bienvenido a mi casa is a bilingual children’s book that defines and explores the rooms of a house. The book uses simple sentence structure and simple dialogue to engage early level Spanish and English readers. Welcome To My House, Bienvenido a mi casa introduces its intention to the reader before the story begins. On the opening pages the reader is given instructions in English and Spanish on how to read the book in order to appreciate both languages. While this message is written simply enough that a young reader could follow and understand it, the intention is for a teacher or guardian with a higher language skill level who can physically present the points and directions of the book to the reader. The instructions explain that English will always appear in purple and Spanish in blue. The colors allow the reader to visually distinguish the languages and are a constant reminder and comparison of them. The colors were chosen on purpose because of their darkness which allows a bold contrast against a white page and for their similarity which parallels that of the English and Spanish language. Purple and blue are similar but different enough to be contrasting colors. English and Spanish share many similarities such as their alphabets, syntax, and different cognate words and at the same time have varying phonology, punctuation, and morphology.
Unlike some bilingual books that place one language at the top of the page and the other at the bottom, I place the languages horizontally parallel to one another. My intention here is that the reader can more easily incorporate both languages in the reading process. In my research of bilingual children’s books I found that following both languages was easier and more accessible when they were closer to one another. Also, the short distance allows the reader to more easily compare and contrast visually the morphology and syntax of the language. The reader is able to follow the sentence structure of his or her own primary language and compare it to that of the other. For example, Leo says to the reader “Welcome to my house!” in English and “¡Bienvenido a mi casa!” in Spanish. As these sentences are parallel, the reader can easily see the differences in punctuation as well as compare vocabulary. He or she will note the differences in the use of the explanation mark and the similarity in the possessive adjectives “my” and “mi”.
Additionally, simple sentence structure is used for two purposes. One reason is the opportunity for early level readers in general to practice reading in their primary language. As they are learning to read in their native tongue they can begin to note differences about their language as well as incorporate new vocabulary and understanding of the foreign language. Additionally, simple sentence structure gives an opportunity to those readers who are advanced in their primary language but are beginning to learn the secondary language. Although the reader may be developed in English literature, the skills do not necessarily cross over for Spanish and the reader needs to acquire a feel for the simple structure before moving on to a skill level that is compatible with the primary language. Furthermore the present tense is used through out the plot to maintain simplicity and to reinforce the specific subject verb agreement seen in both languages. By incorporating a first person narrative as well as a family the reader is introduced to the first and third person subjects in their singular and plural forms. These subjects are repeatedly matched with their verb conjugation and constantly exposed to the reader. The reader is then exposed to the similarities in subject verb agreement but the differences in verb conjugation.
The simple sentence structure also reflects the chosen plot of the story. The character Leo introduces his house to the reader in order to focus on a specific subject that will be familiar to the reader and provide an opportunity to practice the vocabulary of the secondary language on a regular basis. As the objects are familiar household items the reader is likely to see them in his or her house or other familiar places. Illustration is another key component to the understanding of the plot. I wanted the reader to have visuals as she or he processed the foreign vocabulary. I worked with Jane Brinks to bring colorful characters and vibrant rooms to the storyline. Every aspect of the illustration and characters is meant to reflect the bilingualism. By this I mean I choose to make the characters monsters rather than people in order provide racial ambiguity that would not allow the reader to assume the families’ primary language. Therefore, the reader may interpret Leo as a primary English speaker, Spanish speaker, or bilingual and connect with him on whatever level is most comfortable.
Finally the book ends with activities that I created to test the reader’s comprehension as well as reinforce the concepts taught through the plot. There is a matching section which allows the reader to connect the vocabulary with the illustrations. Next there is a multiple choice section which tests the readers understanding of the plot as well display a clear comparison of sentence structure in both languages. Finally, a creative section allows the reader to draw upon personal experiences and actively engage with the book. The reader is asked to draw his or her house and family. Following this the reader will fill in the blank to answer personal questions that relate to the story line. This allows the reader to use vocabulary from the book and practice the languages. From beginning to end the book works to engage, teach, and show readers a world that involves more than one language.
Gagliardi, Lauren Beth, "Bilingual Children's Book" (2011). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 306.
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