Supporting Early Literacy in Young English Language Learners Public Library Association March 2008 Lillian Duran, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Studies Minnesota State University, Mankato
What is your role? As librarians it is important first to define your role in early literacy development. Take a few minutes to brainstorm with the person next to you what you think your role is and how well you think you are doing?
Today’s presentation The intent of today’s presentation is to cover what researchers have discovered about early second language acquisition, long term academic outcomes, and emergent literacy and to explore how this research might apply to the library setting.
Reframing the Question The Question is not whether or not all children in the United States need to learn English… Of course they do! The Question is how do we best teach young English language learners English, while supporting their native language development and producing the best long term academic outcomes?
Research evidence to answer the question “English-only or native language support”? Based on a convergence of evidence it is recognized that supporting a child’s native language early on and specifically developing early literacy skills in a child’s native language better supports later academic outcomes in English(August & Shanahan, 2006; Christian, 1996; Cummins, 1979; Oller & Eilers, 2002; Rolstad, Mahoney, & Glass, 2005; Thomas & Collier, 2002; + many more)
Why focus on language and literacy? • There are a broad range of indicators that define “school readiness,” but some of the most predictive indicators of later school success include measures of early language and literacy (Dickinson & Tabors, 2001; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).
Why specifically Oral Vocabulary for Spanish-speaking children? • Oral vocabulary can serve as a proxy measure for the child’s “store of knowledge” (Proctor et al., 2006). • The more a child knows about the world the better positioned they are to be successful at comprehending more advanced texts. • Spanish oral vocabulary emerges as a key area to target in early intervention programs for Spanish-speaking children to support improved long term academic and reading outcomes (Lindsey, et al. 2003; Manis, et al., 2004; Oller & Eilers, 2002; Ordoñez, et al., 2002; Proctor, et al., 2006).
Why Dialogic Reading? • Dialogic Reading has a strong empirical base and has been shown to improve oral vocabulary development in both English-and Spanish-speaking children (Hargrave & Sénéchal, 2000; Lonigan, et al., 1999; Sénéchal & Cornell, 1993; Whitehurst, et al., 1988; Valdez-Menchaca & Whitehurst, 1992; Whitehurst, et al., 1994; Whitehurst, et al., 1999). • Dialogic reading is hypothesized to increase oral vocabulary development because of the focus on eliciting verbal interactions between the reader and the child.
Social Reasons to support a child’s native language The child must be able to communicate with his/her family and community so that he/she does not become socially isolated. Maintaining strong native language skills will allow parents to communicate affection, discipline and teach cultural values(Wong-Fillmore, 1991).
Social Reasons to support a child’s native language The child will be surrounded with English speakers and will quickly recognize English as the language with higher status and power in this society. The greatest likelihood is actually that immigrant children will discontinue using their native language(Portes & Hao, 1998).
Reasons to support a child’s native language Given the global economy and increasing diversity in our country there is actually a great demand for fully proficient bilinguals. Why should we not support this capacity in native speakers?(Portes & Hao, 1998; Valdes, 1997) Why is it desirable for native English speakers (primarily upper and middle SES) to learn a second language, but native speakers of a minority language (primarily low SES) are pressured into learning and maintain English only?
Is bilingualism attainable? • Over ½ of the world’s population is bilingual (deHouwer, 1995) • Many other countries have instituted and researched bilingual education including: Canada, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Mexico and China (Krashen, 1999)
Additive vs. Subtractive Bilingualism • Additive: “Situations where both languages are supported and languages develop in parallel.” (Diaz & Klingler, 1999) • Subtractive: “Situations characterized by a gradual loss of the first language as a result of increasing mastery and use of the second language.” (Diaz & Klingler, 1999)
Simultaneous vs. Sequential Bilingualism Simultaneous: Two languages acquired from birth Sequential: Usually defined as when a second language is introduced after the age of three (Genesee, Paradis, & Crago, 2004)
Critical factors to consider for young bilinguals • Level of development of the first language/level of education in L1 • Family’s SES/level of education • Minority language status in society (ie motivation and attitudes of the language learner about English and their native language, the intricate connection of language, power, and culture) • Level and variation of input to the child in each of their languages • Child’s ability level and how it impacts language development in general
Suggestions for Storytime • Keep languages separate (as much as possible) Oyster Bilingual School example • Reinforce the minority language status as a language of prestige, read it first, provide as many opportunities as possible for children and families to be engaged in literacy (or oral language i.e. Hmong) activities in their native language
Suggestions for Storytime • Use multicultural music, fingerplays and rhymes. Have the parents lead these activities. Learn new ones yourself. These activities help with rhyming and alliteration. • When reading a bilingual book start with the target language and summarize points in English instead of the other way around. Young bilingual children need to hear the formal “book” language in their native language and have less opportunities for this exposure than English-speaking children.
Uplifting minority language status • Prominently display languages/cultural items/pictures other than English/English cultural representations around the library, label items in the languages represented in your community, showcase the non-English books available, bring non-English speaking/bilingual authors in to speak, host cultural events
Family Outreach • Try to send home literacy activities for families to do with their young children—Reading is not the only literacy activity if the family is not literate. Provide culturally appropriate pictures and have them make up a story, suggest looking at family photos, provide culturally appropriate recipes that are easy, do make-n-take book-making activities, etc.
Family “Make-n-Takes” are not just “cute” projects—they can increase literacy outcomes! • Recent study found benefit from families making books with guidance from teachers using digital pictures of the community and of the family • Children’s receptive language scores improved compared to a comparison group • Significantly more parental expansions and use of “wh” questions were found during book sharing with the homemade books (Innocenti, Boyce, Jump, 2008)
Family Outreach • Reinforce with the family how important their native language is to their young child. Provide hand-outs on this topic in the languages represented at your branch. See example from the Talk with Me Manual.
Family Outreach Have appropriate literacy materials available for the adults as well. Popular magazines, newspapers, cookbooks, etc. Highlight these during storytime. It is documented that the more the child sees people engaging in literacy activities the more likely they are to model that behavior.
Implications for Librarians: Try something new! • Try Spanish-, Somali-, Hmong-(insert other languages here)-only story times. • Involve your local community in planning. Who can you use as a resource? • Be creative and open to new ideas. Visit places in the country that have strong bilingual library programs… network, read, use the internet, seek funding
Current ResearchProgram evaluation and efficacy study • Currently working with a Head Start Transitional Bilingual Education Program in Faribault, MN (1st in the State) • Primarily children from families who are Mexican migrant farm workers who have decided to stay in MN • Project includes an experimental longitudinal research design for program evaluation • Collecting data on language, literacy, and academic outcomes on all students in both English and Spanish classrooms until the end of Kindergarten
What are your next steps in your community to better serve young English Language Learners? • What are your personal philosophies regarding this issue and how do they influence your work? • What information impacted you from today’s presentation? • What do you want to do or what can you do in your community? • Who can help? r