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We speak Arabic only with our daughter (16 months), and although she has picked up a few English words from my parents, Arabic is really her only language at this point.
So, since she loves books, I’d like to start introducing the alphabet (not “lessons,” of course – just fun games with letter-recognition etc). And since she only speaks Arabic, it seems to make sense to introduce the Arabic alphabet first (right?) The trouble is, there are very few books for babies written in Arabic, and even fewer of them are available in the US. Until now, I’ve been reading English books with her, ignoring the text, and just describing them to her in Arabic, but that won’t help her make the connection between sounds and letters. This problem will probably persist until she gets to elementary age, when Arabic-language books are more plentiful. So, what would you do in a situation like this? a) Teach her the English alphabet instead, teach her that “B is for Bear” even though she doesn’t know the word “Bear” yet? b) “Deface” all those nice ABC books by writing in the Arabic letters beside each picture? c) Make my own Arabic-language resources by printing things from the internet etc…? (This option sounds ok in theory, but in practice, I doubt I could really produce enough materials, and the things I made would probably be much less appealing and less durable than real books.) Thanks!
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Less appealing? Less durable? Some of the better practices I had as a child and those which I have already begun with my daughter (Latvian- in an otherwise English dominated American world) are just that hand-drawn. This can be very inventive, and doesn’t have to be so time consuming. In fact, this may certainly not be a long-term solution, but for the time being… I wrote up a template on the computer, two heavy lines, well-spaced, and the space between these bisected by a dotted line. Then you can print these up and begin drawing the letters, either whole or piece by piece (for her to emulate). You can draw or cut and paste pictures of things and leave a space for her to write in the beginning sound, or the vowel sound, or just ask her to draw a picture of something related to the letter or sound. My daughter also is in her second year of Chinese immersion, and many of the materials her teachers employ are not taken strictly from any children’s grammar book or reader. Sometimes large Chinese characters are written on an otherwise blank page and they do finger tracing and repetition along with drawing using graphing paper. Yes, defacing the books is a good idea, but realistically in the long run… all of these require more time and effort than a trip to the library or bookstore. That is, in fact, how it all began for my parents and the Latvian community, in refugee camps setting up schools… escaping due to the necessity of life, very few possessions went with them, and so the teachers taught from memory, and used handwritten materials… and eventually leaving the refugee camps people established communities and some thankfully came up material for all ages, including readers for children which were published and distributed. Today there are also a few websites that cater to children, letters, numbers, folktales, but not many. So, perhaps someone is calling on you to provide this material for your community or just for your child?!
If you know of anyone traveling back to the region where they could perhaps bring you some books… or send them to you while you are there (that’s what friends are for). There is a Latvian amazon, a German amazon, is there an Arabic amazon? Once your child begins school, she will quickly pick up the A,b,c…. Good luck!