The Zazoo: Building bilingual reading skills in young children

My five-year-old son is at magical age when letters become sounds and together they become words – words he can read on his own.

All of a sudden, words are everywhere – hidden in plain sight.

He delights in each word he’s able to string together as he reads it - at home, on the “L” train, along busy streets, at restaurants, or at school.

For my son, reading is a joy. Reading is a way from him to unlock the mysteries that previously lurked in books, on signs, on the computer, and on TV. Reading is a way for him to try to keep up with his eight-year-old brother. And, reading means being able to turn letters into sounds and then into words - in two languages.

Learning to read in English and then French 

My sons go to a French international school. There, students learn to read first in English and then in French. But, even though my younger son is primarily learning to read in English now, he’s connecting the dots with French, too.

That’s why I cherish finding bilingual books for him in French and English. Without my son thinking about it, he’s reading a story, building his vocabulary, and perfecting his reading comprehension - in two languages. And, that’s pretty incredible.

Credit: Little Bilingues

Credit: Little Bilingues

Through the Multicultural Kid Blogs, I recently discovered The Zazoo: I don’t know what to wear! – Je ne sais pas quoi mettre!, a 22-page picture book written and illustrated by Judith Masini of Little Bilingues. The story, geared to children ages 2 - 7, features the Zazoo - mischievous French-English bilingual animals.

The book tells the story of Kido whose clothes are stained so he can’t wear them (something kids and parents can relate to, I’m sure). Luckily, Kido’s friends offer up their clothes of him to wear. But, Kido seems to always find an excuse not to wear most of them.

When I first read the book with my younger son, he read the English and I helped out with the French dialogue. Later, my sons read the book together, with my older son stepping in to read the French dialogue – and putting my pronunciation to shame!

Both of my sons enjoyed the banter between the Zazoo and laughed at Kido’s excuses not to wear particular clothing items. My younger son liked the names of the Zazoo – especially Krok and Minikrok. My older son took a liking to Zozo – who just so happens to wear glasses, too.

Additional learning tools for kids and parents 

From the my first flip of the very first page, I could see that Masini put a lot of thought and effort into making sure the Zazoo help kids build their bilingual reading skills.

Credit: Little Bilingues

Credit: Little Bilingues

The first few pages share the vocabulary words featured throughout the book – in English and French. As suggested in the “parents’ little guide” and “petit guide des parents,” you can cut out the pages before giving the book to your child. Then, as you read the book (or after you’re done reading it), you can review the vocabulary words together in whichever language you’re working to build with him or her.

Throughout the story, the Zazoo speak and respond to each other in English and French, with the French dialogue appearing in pink “bubbles” and the English dialogue appearing in blue “bubbles.” As you and/or your child read the story, you seamlessly read from one language to the other without reading a literal translation – as cleverly devised by Masini.

The learning experience doesn’t end when you reach “the end.” You can download free activity sheets to continue to help your children learn to read in French and/or English.

Making learning and reading fun - at the same time 

For me, I can’t wait to read about the Zazoo again and again. The book has become another way for me to continue to build a love of reading with my sons and satiate my younger son's hunger to put letters, sounds and words together – in English and French.

You can find out more about The Zazoo: I don’t know what to wear! – Je ne sais pas quoi mettre! at Little Bilingues. The book is available to purchase and/or download online.

I received a complimentary copy of The Zazoo: I don’t know what to wear! – Je ne sais pas quoi mettre for my review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own. 

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