Bilingualism, Biliteracy, and Biculturalism


Bilingualism is the ability to SPEAK with equal or nearly equal fluency in two languages.  

Biliteracy is the ability to READ and WRITE in two languages or more.

Biculturalism is the presence of two different CULTURES in the same country or region.


A Bit of History...

In 2008, bilingualism was seen as a disadvantage for immigrant children and resulted in the creation and passing of Proposition 227. This law requires that non-English speaking students be placed in special one-year classes where instruction must be overwhelmingly in English, except with a written request from parents. What years of research and studies from neurologists, psycholinguists, international universities, and early childhood experts worldwide tell us is that bilingual children gain a cognitive, academic, creative, and social edge over monolingual children. Not to mention that sciencetifically during the ages of 0-5 the brain is the most flexible and can much more easily absorb multiple languages. In other words, bilingual children out-perform monolingual children every way we look at it.

851 The idea of biliteracy has surfaced in the last 3-4 years with dual language immersion programs in elementary schools on the rise in popularity. In these programs children in grades K-5 have school in 2 languages in most subject areas. Language immersion programs often integrate native speakers of a language with non-native speakers for proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in the non-English language. Pasadena Unified currently has 3 dual immersion programs at Field (Mandarin-English), Jackson Field (Spanish-English), and San Rafael Field (Spanish-English) Elementary Schools.


Biculturalism is a big part of the acquisition of another language to enhance learning connection through cultural music, arts, food, sports, and religion.


Kidspace Doing its Part...

In support of the research, Kidspace now offers story time, in the Early Childhood Learning Center, every Wednesday, at 11:15 am, in Spanish or French. Coming in Spring 2013 we will add German and Italian to the repertoire of language for story times and increase to programming to 3 times a week, twice a day.


The most exciting development in our language programming at Kidspace has been the creation of a Spanish Immersion Baby and Me program for toddlers 12-24months. This program will be piloted in March 2013 with 7 participants and led by myself and another native Spanish speaking Education staff person. We have already received positive feedback from Kidspace families, PUSD representatives, and schools. Once we have ironed out any kinks we will be offering more Early Learner programs in Spanish as soon as Summer 2013.


For the whole family, Free Family Night at Kidspace showcases performances from various cultures. Our most popular artists have been Japanese Taiko Drummers, Native American storytellers, and Indian dancers. Check the Kidspace Calendar of Events often to see who is coming to Free Family Night next month.

Blog entry by:

Yvonne Chavez, a Pasadena native and the Director of Education & Community Initiations at Kidspace and has been with the museum since 2008. Her prior experience includes bilingual programming for Girl Scouts of America and the National Farm Workers Service Center (aka UFW). She is currently pursuing her MA in Human Development with a focus on Early Childhood at Pacific Oaks.