Supporting Academic Achievement in English Language Learners (page 2)
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2006 there are 4.6 million English language learners (ELLs) in U.S. schools. The National Association of Education consistently finds that ELLs are significantly behind in reading and math, which challenges educators and raises questions about how to improve academic achievement in this population.
Why Is It Important To Support Native Language Development?
- Literacy skills in the native language, such as phonological awareness, letter identification, reading comprehension, and word naming, predict and readily transfer to literacy skills in the second language (e.g., August & Shanahan, 2006; Dickinson et al., 2004).
- By stimulating reading and writing in the home language, parents can help children advance in English (Kohnert et al., 2005).
What About Kids With Language Disorders or Learning Disabilities?
- There is no evidence that depriving children from their native language has any benefits to the acquisition of English, and in fact, it has many negative effects on the native language and communication within the family (Restrepo, 2003; Restrepo & Kruth, 2000).
- Effective daily communication is critical for a child’s self-esteem and social-emotional status (De Houwer, 1999).
- The native language forms an integral part of cultural identity. Depriving a child of the ability to become bilingual and bicultural can continue to have negative repercussions (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993; McCardle et al., 1995).
How Can Parents Stimulate Native Language Development?
- Provide children with opportunities to communicate with native language peers and family.
- At school, children often feel pressured to speak English, and that can reduce the children’s motivation to learn their native language. Discuss how important it is to be bilingual in the workforce and socially.
- Peer interactions in the native language foster a positive image of the first language and place values toward proficiency in more than one language. Encourage those social interactions.
How Can Dialogic Reading Help My Child?
- Asking specific “Wh” questions. “Who is this?” and “When did he leave?”
- Asking more open or abstract questions. “What is happening here?” and “Why do you think he left?”
- Expanding what the child says. “Yes, he went to the zoo . . . with his class.”
- Connecting the story with child’s personal experiences. “Do you remember when we went to the zoo? What did we see?”
- Children gain experience with books, structure of stories, vocabulary, print awareness, attention, and pleasure of learning.
- Reading times become pleasurable and memorable moments of your parent-child interactions, during which you’re having conversations in the native language.
- This strategy can be used for children almost at any age; it does not matter whether the child knows the alphabet and can read.
- The child has an opportunity to learn that every book has a title or a name on the cover and the pages are turned from right to left.
- The child learns how to orient the book in space and how to find a beginning and an ending.
- More importantly, the child has an opportunity to use the native language in a meaningful context and learn literate language and vocabulary that are critical for school success.
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