Language Diversity … Can You Help Young Children Communicate and Play with their Friends who Speak Different Languages? (How New Words, New Friends was born!)

How New Words, New Friends was Born!

by Karen N. Nemeth

 “Why don’t you play much with the other kids, Vivi?”

“Most of the kids speak Spanish and they just talk to each other. If my friend who speaks my language doesn’t come to school one day, I don’t have anybody to play with.”

“Don’t they let you play?”

“They’re nice. I just don’t know how to ask them. I don’t know what to do.”

Larissa and Vivi nwnf acting

 Most preschool classrooms now have children who speak different languages. The National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Awareness recently posted that 87% of Head Start Classrooms served a child learning two or more languages in 2011.

 There has to be a way to teach young children the skills they need to feel comfortable in diverse environments. I found the answers with inspiration from the work of author and researcher, Patton O. Tabors and the recommendations in Julie Hirschler’s 1994 study, “Preschool Children’s Help to Second Language Learners” in the Journal of Educational Issues of Language Minority Students, 14, 227-240. Working with programs across the country led me to write New Words, New Friends – a children’s story with a grown-up lesson about understanding, caring about, and getting along with peers who speak different languages.

New Words, New Friends New Words, New Friends is a resource for teachers, librarians and parents to teach children with different languages how to learn and play together.   It is available in paperback and e-book.  It is also available in both formats as Nuevas Palabras, Nuevos Amigos. It contains a heartwarming social story that supports social and emotional development along with three simple steps that young children can learn and practice with their friends. The colorful images were created by Diego Jiménez Manzano who is a well-known illustrator in Spain. He has shared his talent as a visiting artist in schools and he brings a cross-cultural approach to the illustrations.

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Here are some comments from reviewers:

Karen Nemeth is nationally recognized for helping children from bilingual / bicultural homes feel welcome and successful in English speaking classrooms. New Words, New Friends is a story about how making friends can transcend cultural boundaries and teach young children about linguistic inclusion.  This book will be of great benefit to all children! – Louise Sattler, Psychologist,

New Words, New Friends is a gentle reminder to teachers and parents about how sensitive we need to be to people who are different than us. The story helps children and intentional teachers and parents communicate the importance of mindfulness.  – Valeria Erdosi-Mehaffey, Executive Director, The King’s Daughters Day School

Karen Nemeth has written a charming book for children on empathy, kindness, sharing and inclusiveness. Teachers will be able to use the book to help students develop positive social skills. It delivers an important message in a fun way–The more friends we have, the better! – Connie Goldin, President, Mom to Madre

As a veteran early childhood educator, I am a highly critical reader of children’s storybooks. I am often unimpressed. But I am extremely excited about Karen Nemeth’s new book for children in preschool classrooms. Teachers and children will love New Words, New Friends.. It is a beautifully produced book with modern illustrations and a highly relatable story. The book helps teachers address a common, yet often overlooked classroom problem: How to help children who speak different languages span language barriers to develop relationships. Written in delightful and addictive cadence, the book includes strategies for children to use to connect with others who speak another language and discussion questions for teachers to use to extend the experience. This book will be a classroom favorite. (Review on

I teach at an inner-city school and have often wondered how best to help my children with different home languages to play together. This book does the work for me: with colourful, vibrant artwork, sweet rhyming couplets and accessible ideas, my students loved reading it when it came in the mail recently and I have already started to put the main concepts into practice! Not only is it a fun read and sure to be an educational classic of the Teeth are Not for Biting variety, it will help kids make cross-cultural leaps AND new friends! Thank you Karen Nemeth – my classroom is going to be a much friendlier place from now on! (Review on


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