Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Credit: 123RF.com


Bilingual in the South

Take a look at Helen’s post on her experience growing-up bilingual (Korean and English) in the United States’ south. We previously wrote about importance of having a system to raise bilingual children here.


Stick-man (Цурпалко)

Julia Donaldson is a truly phenomenal writer of children’s books. This Ukrainian edition of Stick Man or Цурпалко is brought to us by Chitarium with excellent translation by Volodymyr Chernyshenko and editing by Hanna Osadko. Comparing both the English and the Ukrainian versions you will notice that the spirit of the original English text shines through in the Ukrainian translation.

Here is an excerpt so you can judge for yourself:

Блукав наш Цурпалко, не чуючи ніг

Він очі заплющив, де бачив, там ліг.

Заморений, втомлений, зовсім один,

Згубився Цурпалко поміж хуртовин

The Ukrainian version can be hard to find for sale, but it is available from the publisher and from major online retailers such as Yakaboo. The English version is for sale every where including on Amazon and others.

Description of the book in Ukrainian:

Сюжет книги «Цурпалко» розповідає про дружню сім’ю тата Цурпалка, його дружину та трьох діточок, які щасливо мешкають на сімейному дереві. Та сімейний затишок руйнується в одну мить, адже бути палицею ох як непросто. Він стає іграшкою для собаки, який відносить його все далі та далі від дому. З цього моменту спокійне життя тата змінює вир пригод.

Він подорожує світом, стаючи то частиною гнізда лебедів, то рукою сніговика. На шляху нашого героя зустрічається багато перешкод, а також неймовірних знайомств. Одного разу він навіть допомагає Санта-Клаусу. Та чи зможе Цурпалко повернутися до своєї сім’ї та рідного дому? Дізнавайтеся з книги!

«Цурпалко» – захоплива та сонячна історія, яка навчає доброти, віри у себе та сімейним цінностям. Книга стане провідником до цікавого проведення часу та до приємних вражень.

To support Smallest Scholars and our illustrator Maria Zapadinska, consider purchasing our coloring books.


Happy Birthday to Carol of the Bells Composer (Leontovych)!

Mykola Leontovych — a Ukrainian composer, choral conductor, and teacher — was born on December 13, 1877. He is most famous for the Christmas classic “Carol of the Bells” (Schedryk). Read more and celebrate this famous composer here.


Grinch in Ukrainian

How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (Про Грінча, який украв Різдво) by Dr. Seuss is a timely classic. This Ukrainian version mirrors the rhyme of the English classic, which will sound familiar to English readers while delivering an entirely new feel in Ukrainian. Tip of the hat for excellent translation work goes to Marianna Kiyanovska (bio).

Грінч не зносив Різдва! Взагалі! Ані в місті, ні в домі. Не питайте, чому, бо причини йому невідомі. Може, голову Грінчу прикрутили не так, як треба. Може, в нього була у новому взутті потреба. Та найбільш імовірно – не майте мені за зле – Що причина – у серці. Було воно зовсім мале.

Available in English on Amazon, in Ukrainian on Yakaboo.ua this Christmas as well as from other fine retailers.


Where to buy Ukrainian language books?

If you live in Canada or the United States, you may find your next Abetka and children’s books at Yevshan’s online store. They ship from Kirkland, Quebec, Canada, and you can get it by mail fast even if the U.S.-Canada border remains closed to all non-essential travel across borders. If you live in Europe, you are probably better off ordering from a closer retailer.

What other online or brick-and-mortar retailers do you know that sell a wide variety and quality Ukrainian children’s books?


Grades 1-11: Ukrainian lessons on YouTube

Ukrainian lessons (free and online) grades 1-11 at this MON YouTube channel.


Abetka and Art

Abetka (абетка), or the Ukrainian alphabet, consists of 33 letters written in Cyrillic script. The word Abetka stems from the first two letters in the Ukrainian language:  а (a) and б (b).

You can find many variations of Abetka books online. While some reuse old themes from a different era, others offer original takes on this important topic. See for example, Stary Lev’s catalogue of quality and new ways to illustrate an abetka, e.g. a professions themed abetka (Абетка ремесел і професій), two abetkas teaching about the life and literary works of Ukrainian classics Taras Shevchenko and Ivan Franko, and another abetka about Metropolitan Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Andrey Sheptytsky among others.

The most recent publication we discovered takes yet another novel approach, which combines art and abetka, to illustrate, teach and inspire. Back in 2016, Osnovy Publishing brought to market what it describes as the first Ukrainian alphabet book “illustrated with the masterpieces of art, graphics, sculpture and decorative art from the collection of the National museum of Arts named after Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko in Kyiv.” You can take a look inside the book at Osnovy’s website here.

Now, if you need an activity book on the topic, Smallest Scholars offers this Abetka coloring book to keep your kids engaged and busy using those Crayola Crayons. The Smallest Scholars’ Ukrainian Alphabet coloring book for kids (Українська Абетка – розмальовка для дітей) is available for purchase at major online retailers including Amazon, Target, Barnes and Nobles and others.

Thank you for supporting Smallest Scholars and our illustrator Maria Zapadinska with your purchase.


How to draw fruits with glitter (in Ukrainian)

This Melli Art School UA video (Фрукти з блискiтками Вчимо назви фруктів та кольори Навчальне відео для дітей) teaches how to draw fruits (apples, pears, cherries, etc.). It teaches Ukrainian words for these fruits and their colors. Give it a try.


Duolingo…або як вивчити українську 🇺🇦 мову?

Have you TRIED this app?

If you want to learn Ukrainian from scratch or reinforce your existing knowledge, try duolingo. The best parts about this app are:

  • its user-friendly interface
  • intuitive approach to learning
  • and small, bite-size, lessons that you can complete in a few minutes while on public transportation or on a coffee break.

However, Smallest Scholars is most excited about Duolingo ABC which teaches your child how to read. To quote Duolingo ABC, the app “helps kids have fun while they practice reading and writing in English, with more languages coming soon!

We look forward to using Duolingo Абетка soon!


Where to download free Ukrainian educational worksheets

Finding educational materials in Ukrainian is not easy. If you ever searched for Ukrainian Abetka books on Amazon or other Internet marketplaces, you have no doubt discovered that the selection is abysmal. But, many online sites now offer content for direct download such as childdevelop.com.ua. This site offers many worksheets in Ukrainian (also in English and Russian) free of charge. If you end up liking it, for a small fee, you can gain access to the entire catalogue with unlimited downloads. Take a look at the below example, which teaches Ukrainian and logic:

To download this worksheet, go to the original content provider.

The above exercise helps your child to apply logic, develop creative thinking, and learn new words. In the first part, the child has to determine which goods belong in which store. In the second part, the child comes up with names for stores that sell listed goods, such as toys, sweets, etc.


Baby Shark in Ukrainian

Kudos to the Yanko Gortalo team for producing a Ukrainian version of the Baby Shark song (Малюк-сом). Check out their YouTube channel. To learn more about this creative project and to support them, visit their official website here.


New publication – Ukrainian Alphabet coloring book

We are happy to announce the publication of Ukrainian Alphabet coloring book for kids (Українська Абетка – розмальовка для дітей).

All 33 letters of the Ukrainian alphabet are paired with cute animals to provide visual learning (Aa – Akula/Aкула, Бб – Bilochka/Білочка, Вв – Vovk/ Вовк…).

This is a great way to introduce fundamental learning concepts like letter recognition and specific animals while improving your child’s fine motor skills. A perfect gift for young scholars who may be learning or even already know Ukrainian.

With playful illustrations by the talented Maria Zapadinska, the Smallest Scholars’ Ukrainian Alphabet coloring book for kids is sure to be an enjoyable and educational gift for a child in your life along with Numbers & Shapes Ukrainian coloring book for kids.


The benefits of a bilingual brain

by Mia Nacamulli (TED-Ed)

Watch this 5 minute video by TED-Ed, which breaks down how our brains learn languages, difference between children and adults in acquiring a new language, and benefits to you in the long-term.


Scholarly research on bilingualism and multilingualism

So there I was…casually browsing scholarly literature on raising bi/multilingual children, when University of Ottawa’s Dr. Nikolay Slavkov‘s research caught my attention. In a peer-reviewed article published by International Journal of Multilingualism (Routledge), Slavkov concludes regarding three factors related to a child’s development as an active or passive bi/multilingual.

Slavkov finds three factors to have a positive association on whether a child develops as an active or passive bi/multilingual:

  • heritage-language school enrollment
  • use of minority language with a sibling
  • the development of literacy skills in a minority language

Slavkov writes “what these variables seem to have in common is a strong level of active commitment on the parents’ part. That is, one could argue that a higher degree of effort and time investment from the parents is necessary to help a child acquire minority language literacy, to commit to heritage-language classes on weekends, and to institute a family policy that encourages or possibly requires siblings to speak in a minority language with one another.”

Now, what about reading books and watching TV, doesn’t that teach the kids?

Slavkov finds that reading books to the child in a minority language or letting the child watch TV or engage with multimedia resources in a minority language seem to have a somewhat lower effort and time commitment value.

Yet, every little bit counts and adds up in the end.


4 weeks of free online courses for children: reading, thinking, growing

Are you #stuckathome with school-age children? Scholastic is offering free online courses for children as part of its Scholastic Learn at Home program. Cost? Your email address. Otherwise, it’s free to use.

According to The Hill, it offers “three hours of learning per day with up to four weeks of instruction. Users are asked to choose a grade level, separated into pre-K and kindergarten, first and second grade, third through fifth grade, and sixth grade and above. The courses span the subjects of English language arts; STEM; science; social studies; and social-emotional learning.”

What online educational resources for children, especially with a focus on teaching languages, do you use?


Can you learn a foreign language by watching cartoons?

LEPETUNY (Babblers or «Лепетуни») — free Ukrainian language short cartoon series with pedagogical value

Can you really learn another language by watching cartoons? Yes, there is some pedagogical value (with the right cartoons) when raising children bilingual, but the short answer is no — cartoons alone won’t cut it.

Here’s the argument. In our experience, we found cartoons as positive teaching aids when used as:

  1. Creative breaks for parents and kids (need to punctuate grammar and math sessions somehow)
  2. Introduction of new vocabulary and exposure to different voices of the target language (for example the Nick Jr. show Bubble Guppies structures each episode on a specific subject, and luckily it has been translated into multiple languages such as German, Polish, Spanish, & Ukrainian)
  3. Reinforcement of previously learned material (read a book about a Unicorn in the morning, and later watched Twilight Sparkle*) 

*attention grandparents: this is a main character of the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic cartoon

Simply putting the kids in front of a TV to have them watch [insert your language] cartoons will not give them mastery without additional stimuli. Watching is passive so at most you are looking at raising a child that is fluent in English and perhaps understands some Spanish for example. Absent active teaching or interaction in the target language, the child will probably not be able to speak Spanish and certainly not be able to write Spanish. This is especially so if the environment is English-speaking and the only source of Spanish is occasionally on TV.

So, to review, use cartoons as a tool in your bilingual education approach, but do not place all your eggs in that basket. Recognize this tool’s limits and strengths.

We’d love to hear your experience with cartoons. Comment below or contact us. Thanks for reading and subscribe to our mailing list.

Next post: what does scholarly literature say on impact of cartoons?


Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to you all! Wishing you a wonderful day with those you love. Here is a book recommendation to go along to read in Ukrainian: Велике місто, маленький зайчик, або Мед для мами (ISBN 978-966-7047-54-2)

Also available, though hard to find, in English: A Small Bunny in the Big City or HONEY for MOMMY

Author: Ivan Malkovych;

Illustrator: Sofia Uss;

Translator: Kateryna Yushchenko.

Book description: Мама маленького Зайчика застудилася, і він вирішив піти купити для неї меду, адже чай з медом — найкращі ліки на горло. Але місто велике, а Зайчик — дуже маленький, і він заблукав… Зворушлива історія зі зворушливими ілюстраціями і щасливим закінченням…


Free Ukrainian language virtual school

Publishing House Ranok (Видавництво «Ранок») is offering a free Ukrainian virtual school (Віртуальна школа «Ранок») k-11 during COVID-19 restrictions. Here is a class schedule. Also, past classes are available on Ranok’s YouTube channel. At first glance, it looks promising. What online resources do you use to help raise your kids bilingual?


A systematic way to raise bilingual children

Books for in the morning & at school

Books for afternoons & language lessons

Books for going to bed

If you decided to raise your children bilingual or multilingual then the next decision for you is what system should you choose. Olena Centeno of BilingualKidsRock.com argues that to succeed you must have a system, a structure, in place that will guide you (parents, grandparents, extended family, etc.) and your children through the years. Having a system is an integral part of family language planning (FLP).

In her post, Centeno writes that a system has the following three elements:

  1. Who speaks which languages
  2. When specific languages are spoken, and
  3. Which languages the child is expected to use

Centeno then elaborates on four system types: one parent one language (1P1L) – Mom speaks English & Dad speaks French; minority language at home (MLH) – Spanish at home and English at school; time and place systems – mornings in English, evenings in Ukrainian; and, mixed language policy – two languages are used equally and interchangeably in daily life.

It is of course possible to combine these systems, creating a framework that best suits you. In our family we use both one parent one language as well as a time and place system. Our daughters know that their father will speak to them in Ukrainian and their mother will use English. They also know that in the morning and at school they will hear and use English and read English books; in the afternoon and during Ukrainian lessons they will only use Ukrainian and read Ukrainian books; in the evening they will hear and use both languages and read books in both languages.

If you haven’t yet noticed a trend, it is that we use books extensively in our house to support raising our daughters bilingual. But there will be more on the power of books and language learning in a forthcoming post.

Regardless of which system you choose, having an established framework in place for how you approach raising your children bilingual will help keep you focused and guide you toward your goal.


I don’t want to be a princess

KidStory.UA Ukrainian language animated children’s book by Polish author Grzegorz Kasdepke “I don’t want to be a princess”

Thank you KidStory.UA for producing high quality Ukrainian language animated children’s books! Above, you can watch a book by Polish author Grzegorz Kasdepke: “I don’t want to be a princess” (Ukrainian: Я не хочу бути принцесою; Polish: A ja nie chcę być księżniczką), illustrated by Emilia Dzyubak and narrated by Nina Kastorf.


A critical mistake to avoid when raising bilingual children

Always on the look out for bilingual education advice, I found this excellent post by Homeschool Guru on raising bilingual children based on personal experience speaking English and French. What not to do is just as important as what to do. A key rule many of us raising bilingual children often forget is do not translate.

when faced with the common and natural question ‘what does that mean?’ in whatever language you are conversing with your child, avoid the temptation to resolve the situation by directly translating

Homeschool Guru gives two reasons why not: (1) translation shuts down the child’s brain to thinking and operating in the language you are using and (2) it is simply untrue that all words and terms directly translate. Take a look at the full post.

What are your thoughts?


Ukrainian Alphabet Song

Ukrainian Alphabet Song (Пісенька про АБЕТКУ) features animals corresponding for each letter of the Ukrainian alphabet. Fun and easy way to learn new words while singing. The same YouTube channel also has other foreign languages such as Russian, Spanish, and others.


Easter (Великдень)


Major holidays are great for teaching new words and concepts, because these holidays are visible, recurring, and hold a special meaning in each family. Easter or Великдень (Velykden) in Ukrainian lends itself to various ideas of how to teach children language through shared traditions:

  • Color Easter themed coloring pages featuring pysanky, Easter basket, etc.
  • Tell your child about your family’s Easter traditions and the meaning of each, focusing on introducing some key words specifically related to the holiday – pysanka, paska
  • Dye eggs (yes this is a common Easter activity), but then discuss how & why we do that in relation to the technique & history of pysanky

Enjoy your holiday!

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