The Pros of Bilingual Education (page 3)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Dec 8, 2010

Improving Bilingual Education

Bilingual education has done well, but it can do much better. The biggest problem, in this author's view, is the absence of books--in both the first and second languages--in the lives of students in these programs. Free voluntary reading can help all components of bilingual education: It can be a source of comprehensible input in English or a means for developing knowledge and literacy through the first language, and for continuing first language development.

Limited-English-proficient Spanish-speaking children have little access to books at home (about 22 books per home for the entire family according to Ramirez, Yuen, Ramey, & Pasta, 1991) or at school (an average of one book in Spanish per Spanish-speaking child in some school libraries in schools with bilingual programs, according to Pucci, 1994). A book flood in both languages is clearly called for. Good bilingual programs have brought students to the 50th percentile on standardized tests of English reading by grade five (Burnham-Massey & Pina, 1990). But with a good supply of books in both first and second languages, students can go far beyond the 50th percentile. It is possible that we might then have the Lake Wobegon effect, where all of the children are above average, and we can finally do away with the tests (and put the money saved to much better use).


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