How Many Palabras? Codeswitching and Lexical Diversity in Spanish-English Picture Books

Viridiana L. Benitez, Marissa Castellana, Christine E. Potter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Bilingual picture books have been growing in popularity, with caregivers, teachers, and researchers increasingly interested in understanding how picture books might be able to support the learning of words in two languages. In this study, we present the first evaluation of the quantity and quality of text contained within bilingual picture books in English and Spanish targeted to children ages 0–9 and available to parents in the United States. We focus specifically on a sample of codeswitching books (N = 45) which present text in one language embedded in another language. All books were transcribed and evaluated for (1) the number of words and utterances presented in each language; (2) the quality and complexity of text presented in each language; and (3) how switching occurred between the two languages. Results showed that although picture books in our sample presented predominantly English text and more complex English sentences, relatively more unique words were presented in Spanish. Furthermore, picture books in our sample presented frequent switching between languages, particularly within utterances. We suggest that bilingual picture books provide children with potentially enriching yet asymmetrical opportunities for learning in each language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • bilingual picture books
  • children’s literacy
  • codeswitching
  • language development
  • lexical diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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