Addressing Emergent Literacy Skills in English
Language Learners Children who are learning English as a second language and live in homes where languages other than English are spoken are known as English-language learners (ELLs). Therefore, it is imperative that preschool personnel be trained to support the emergent literacy skills that prepare preschoolers to enter kindergarten ready to learn to read (Garcia & Gonzalez, 2006). Emergent literacy skills are believed to develop during preschool years for most children, when they are in the process of becoming literate.
The National Early Literacy Panel (2004) identified alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness, writing/writing name, oral language skills, and concepts about print in preschool children as predictors of later reading and writing success in elementary school children. To achieve success, ELLs must be in environments in which:
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- The first language and literacy are not only valued, but enriched in a planned and systematic manner.
- Instruction in English as a second language (ESL) is targeted to the child's English-language developmental level while also being challenging. Teachers are knowledgeable about the normal processes of ESL development and literacy development in bilinguals.
- The program has a strong home-school connection that provides parent training and views parents as resources. Emergent Literacy Skills are organized into four domains: Print-Knowledge Print knowledge refers to a child's growing understanding of the relationship between the form and purpose of print (e. g. , Adams, 1990; Print knowledge has been associated with reading ability in English as a second language in ELLs (Klingner, Artiles, & Barletta, 2006).
Exposure to different print in different languages helps the child connect writing to his or her native language and culture and also raises the awareness of the symbolic and arbitrary nature of written language. Phonological-Awareness Phonological awareness is the understanding that oral language can be broken up into individual words, words into syllables, and syllables into individual sounds, or phonemes (Bradley & Bryant, 1983.
ELLs with strong phonological awareness skills in English demonstrated a higher potential for reading achievement in later years (e. g. , Genesee, et al. , 2005). Writing Emergent Writing is considered a child’s first experience with writing. Children’s early experiences in experimenting with different forms of writing support later reading and writing success. Oral-Language Oral language provides the building blocks for literacy.
Children who do not develop these core language skills lack some of the most fundamental skills essential for reading (Catts, Fey, Zhang, & Tomblin, 1999; They must develop these skills in a language they do not speak while still acquiring emergent literacy skills and oral language skills in their native language. Therefore, one of the most critical emergent literacy skills for ELLs to develop is oral language in the native and second languages. Strong native language skills predict oral language, reading, and writing skills in the second language (e. g. , August, Carlo, Dressler, & Snow, 2005; Carlo et al. 2004). Strategies for Improvement Improving emergent literacy in preschool ELLs requires the use of planned instruction or activities that address the prerequisite skills in the two languages, develop strong oral language skills, and connect home with school. Inclusion of bilingual print awareness and writing activities in preschool also will allow ELLs to develop skills in both languages and to increase awareness of different writing systems. ELLs also need to build language proficiency in order to connect phonemic awareness, writing, and letter knowledge to language that they understand.
Oral Language Skills
To improve oral-language skills and facilitate emergent literacy skill development, ELLs need to build vocabulary, oral language comprehension, and production. This context presents a problem for ELLs because they often do not continue to develop their native language unless those skills are stimulated in their home environment and used for instruction in school (Barnett, Yarosz, Thomas, Jung, & Blanco, 2007). ELLs entering preschool require language-rich environments that focus on overall language development.
If the school focuses on English acquisition of colors and shapes, the child is missing critical development of literate language like stories and vocabulary in the native language and may not have strong foundations for second language acquisition. To build vocabulary skills, explicit and implicit instruction is necessary (Schwanenflugel et al. , 2004). Books build not only vocabulary but also text structure knowledge and background that prepare children for academic success. Dialogic reading can also be used to help ELLs build abstract language, especially in the native language, and to acquire the second language.
It is important to provide parents with training to help them understand the role of native language in overall academic, language, and literacy development, for cultural identity, and in English acquisition. Building language and emergent literacy in ELLs requires a planned and systematic approach to address the native and second languages and to provide parents with needed resources and support. Systematic and planned bilingual language and literacy instruction promotes growth in the two languages and does not impede or slow English-language acquisition.
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