How to Self-Publish a Bilingual Children’s Book That Stands Out

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Learning a new language is like learning to see the world in a new color: you suddenly notice shades of sounds in rolled r’s and guttural consonants, and potential friendships tucked behind an “hola” or “salut.” That’s why it’s so special when a child has the opportunity to learn another language, especially through a book you write! As language learners embark on this journey, bilingual books can be an incredibly helpful resource for them.

I grew up learning Spanish, and one of my favorite things to do during my studies was to compare how Spanish words looked next to English words — with all of their beautiful similarities and differences.

If you’re interested in writing your own bilingual children’s books, here are three key things to keep in mind that will help you be successful.

1. Consider how your bilingual book will actually teach language.

This is key for writing a bilingual book that stands out in the market. Think about how your book will be particularly useful for language learners or multilingual families, and consider how you can implement language learning tools while preserving the soul and creativity of your story.

Many books that showcase two languages simply situate them next to each other on each page, and leave translating up to the reader. However, unless children are completely fluent in the second language, it’s likely they’ll only be able to pick out a few words that they understand.

They’ll know it’s a translation, but they won’t know how it translates from one language to the other. Big problem — and totally yawn-worthy if you actually want them to enjoy the story.

As a solution, when I created Malty the Blue Tiger bilingual children’s books, I decided to bold and color-code key vocabulary words (for instance, words like “blue” or “rojo” actually appear in their respective colors) for easy comparison.

These tools make it easy for kids to see which words match up with each other, all while sharpening their reading comprehension, language skills, and critical thinking skills. There’s also an illustrated glossary at the end of each book so kids can review the words they’ve learned.

Ask yourself this: Is my book clear enough that it would help a child learn to read — even in their native language? Ideally, your book could help a child grasp their first language and a second language at the same time.


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Who LOVES learning new words in new languages!? 💙 When we first dreamed up Malty the Blue Tiger, we knew we wanted an engaging story that also taught language skills—learning new vocabulary shouldn’t feel dry or boring!! That’s why in Malty the Blue Tiger, you’ll find a wildly funny story paired with tools to help your child become a bilingual learner, like this “Words I Learned Today” section! 😍 Find the book on Amazon March 19, 2018, and play the game in our story to see how many of these words you know! 😉💙 • • • • #childrensbooks #learnspanish #kidlit #mkbkids #spanishvocabulary #bilingual #bilingualmom #bilingualkids #homeschoolbooks #homeschooling #homeschoolmom #educationalbooks #dadsofinstagram #momlifebelike #dadlife #millennialmom #multiculturalkids #amreading #newbooks #amazonbooks #getreading #storybooks #picturebooks #picturebooksofinstagram

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2. Translating your book: get more than one point of view.

As you know, translation isn’t just about accuracy, but also about style and choice of words.

Unless your book takes place in a particular region with a certain dialect, you’ll likely want to aim for a widely-used form of the language — meaning the words are understood and used by the vast majority of speakers. If you can, work with a few proofreaders who are native speakers of the language to check for words that might seem out of place for certain readers. Ideally, the proofreaders would be from different regions or countries.

Also think about how sounds are expressed differently in each language (this is particularly important for children’s books!). For instance, a truck’s “Honk!” might be expressed as “Tut!” in French.

Sometimes, your translation decisions will be stylistic and based on what you think will resonate with your audience best.

Languages also have different punctuation rules — consider the guillemets (« ») used as quotation marks or the space required before an exclamation mark (« Bonjour ! ») in French.

Even if you hire a translator for your book, study that language’s rules enough so you can give it a good second eye. I didn’t translate the French edition of my book, but I was still able to work with my translator and proofreaders to make edits based on what I had researched about the rules of the language.


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Send your kids back to school #ReadyToRoar! Each day this week, we’ll be sharing one way you can use your Malty book to help your little ones sharpen their skills for back to school season. ⁣✏️⁣⁣ (Read the full article in our bio link!) ⁣⁣⁣ 𝐓𝐢𝐩 #𝟏: Emphasize each bolded or color-coded word in the story as you read. Not only will this familiarize your child with the vocabulary they need to know in school — think colors, animal names, and onomatopoeia like “chirp” — but it’ll also teach them to closely observe text and compare how different words look and sound.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Next, ask your child which words look similar or the same in both languages (also known as cognates, these are words like the English “jungle” and the French “la jungle”). Seeing these can help kids get excited about learning how other languages are both similar to and different from their own! 🐯

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3. Go beyond writing a book. Get out there and create a community!

Once you’ve finally approved your book to be published, know that the journey is just beginning. Now it’s up to you to bring together a unique community of language lovers who value your book and the additional content you have to offer.

Connect with the IngramSpark Community

Constantly connect with your community of parents, educators, and other language lovers through social media, articles on your website, book fairs, or even a podcast. Think about how your book brings together like-minded people and talk to them about their needs. Are they having trouble finding language activities for their kids? Are they struggling to motivate their child to learn a second language?


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🎉 𝐆𝐞𝐭 𝟐𝟓% 𝐨𝐟𝐟 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐌𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐲 𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐀𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐨𝐧 — 𝐭𝐨𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐨𝐰 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲! 🎉 Have you started rocking back-to-school shopping yet? We’re stocking up on Malty books to send to our friends and family as their kiddos head off to school this fall. 😍 It’s the cutest, most helpful send-off because the books not only teach kids how to be confident in their voices, but also boost their language skills — the foundation to learning success! Get your copies in the bio link before this deal is over! 💕⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ #maltythebluetiger #amazon #primeday #summersale #bookstagram #kidsbooks #kidsbookstagram #amreading #bookshelfie #childrensbooks #language #langchat #languageexchange #duallanguage #houstonmoms #nycmoms #socalmom #austinmom #dallasmom #motherhoodrising #childhoodunplugged #letthembelittle #momlifebelike #bilingualfamily #motherhood

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Whatever they might be, identify those needs, then provide answers with content and your products — and constantly ask for and learn from feedback. That’s how you go beyond simply printing and selling a book to creating a brand that has an incredible impact on your readers in the long term.


Book Distribution Guide

Kelsey Kloss

Kelsey Kloss is the founder of Malty the Blue Tiger bilingual children's books (available in English and Spanish or English and French), which help kids easily learn new language skills and celebrate every unique voice. She’s also the host of In Plain Language, the podcast presented by Malty the Blue Tiger that gives parents, educators, and language lovers tangible advice on speech and language in kids. Kloss is a former editor for national magazines including Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, Prevention, ELLE Decor, and Redbook.