* Guest Blogger: Andy Flaherty, Director of English Education – Concept Schools
While it may seem to your children that they spend most of their time in school, the reality is that more than 70% of their time is spent out of school. This means that while your students have highly qualified teachers, there are many hours when your child is at home and could use your help and encouragement. Yes, your help and encouragement dispelling the myth that you cannot learn English if you do not speak it at home.
Rest assured teachers are always trying to improve their relationships with English Language Learner (ELL) students. They are looking for ways to improve their engagement with you by finding ways to help you at home, learning specific teaching skills to help ELL students, and learn from other excellent ELL teachers by watching them teach.
However, we already know that parents play a vital role in the home-school connection. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, and many other researchers, have found that students whose parent are actively involved in their education, no matter what their background or economic situation, are more likely to be successful. Not only do students earn higher grades, their attendance improves, they have better social skills and adapt well, and graduate and go on to post-secondary education.
Helping your child learn literacy skills in your family’s native language also has very positive results when it comes to learning English.
You may be wondering what you can do, as a non-native parent, to help your child. As stated you do not need to be fluent in English to help. Focusing on building a strong reading relationship with your child in your native language can be beneficial. This is, of course, true for all student/parent relationships.
In a recent article published in Education Leadership, expert Barbara Gottschalk lists our topic as the second most common myth. Myth 2: English language learners will never learn English if they do not speak it in the home. Since it is a myth, you can start now to build a reading environment in your home that is focused on quality time, not quantity.
The Colorin Colorado organization has an exceptional website to specifically meet the needs of the Spanish-speaking community and concurs with Ms. Gottschalk. Many of her thoughts and ideas work for ELL’s regardless of their native heritage and have been adapted below.
Here is what we know, from the research she has gathered:
- Children who are exposed to age-appropriate books in their native language develop stronger pre-literacy skills. (Association for Childhood Education International, 2003)
- Children who learn to read in their native language first will have an easier time learning to read in their second language. (Anstrom, 1999)
- Children who can read in their native language understand the process of reading. (Short & Fitzsimmons, 2007)
- Children learn languages quickly, but without a strong cognitive foundation in their first language, they will struggle. (Ramirez et. Al, 1991)
The implications are clear – you can learn the process of reading and the cognition (thinking) necessary for reading in your native language. It will make it so much easier to transfer to the study of the English language.
Here are some ways to make your home an effective learning environment for your child:
You can stimulate your child’s cognitive, linguistic, and social development to enforce her/his developing literacy skills by:
- Provide reading books in your native language
- Talk about the stories as you read together
- Play rhyming games and sing songs in your native language
- Encourage your child to write in your native language
- Expose your child to games, puzzles, and music in your native language
- Keep materials printed in your native language around the house
- Expand your child’s native vocabulary by teaching her/him new words
- Schedule reading trips into the community, library, sports facilities, and arts venues
- Encourage storytelling in your native language
- Provide opportunities for your child to speak at family events
So, take a little bit of time at home to build a strong reading relationship with your child.