How Can Native English-Speaking Parents Help Their Children With Reading Comprehension in Spanish?

by multilingualmania on June 16, 2010

in Bilingual Education, bilingual parenting, Dual Immersion, Immersion Bilingual Education, Literacy and Biliteracy, parent education and support, second language acquisition, Spanish

A common theme that I often hear from Dual Immersion teachers about native English-speakers who are learning Spanish is: “He (or she) is not meeting grade level standards in Spanish language arts”. Parents in Dual Immersion programs immediately become concerned and some parents begin to think about exiting their child from the program because they don’t want their child to fall behind or become confused.

What I often tell both parents and teachers in this scenario is: Of course the child is not meeting grade level standards in Spanish language arts if he or she is in kinder through third grade, and sometimes fourth grade! It’s important to remember that it takes approximately five to seven years to achieve academic proficiency in a second language, and sometimes even a few more years if the child is a struggling student or has had interruptions in schooling. Telling parents that students are “not meeting grade level standards” when they are not necessarily developmentally ready to do so will only put you in risk of losing students from the program.

Although students in the lower grades are not ready to meet grade level standards in their second language, there are also ways that teachers can monitor second language progress in order to determine whether students are making expected progress towards achieving full proficiency in their second language. There are both formal and informal ways of monitoring second language progress, and this will definitely be a topic that we will address soon in another post.

In the meantime, check out my article over on Spanglishbaby about this topic. I answered a mother’s question about how she can assist her English-speaking student with increasing his reading comprehension in Spanish when she doesn’t speak Spanish. In a nutshell, I recommended that she continue to work on reading comprehension with him in English, while also increasing the amount of engaging reading materials at home in both languages!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Scibienski June 16, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Excellent post. This summer I am planning on putting together a parent workshop to reinforce the concept described in your post and will definitely be referencing the information here. Many of the parents in my school feel that their limited English is an enormous obstacle to the success of their children. I think this can often lead to a devaluing of their native languages. As educators, we have to help them realize that their native language is valuable not only for cultural identity reasons but that it can also be utilized as a tool to build the academic ability of their children.

Wenjonggal June 16, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Since my son will be entering preschool in the fall in his second language, French, which is not my native language (which is English), I am very interested in this. I do NOT expect him to be at grade level proficiency, especially not for the first several years, academically, as he will not only be learning the basics of letters, sounds, writing, reading, math, but also all the vocab, grammar, culture that will be second nature to a native francophone child. I have already been working on his English language phonics skills so that at least the concepts of reading will not be brand new to him as he has to decode the French as well as the new academic requirements. I am glad to see that what you recommend (reinforcing his first language and making a lot of attractive both language reading materials available at home) is consistent to what I guessed I should be doing.

multilingualmania June 17, 2010 at 8:59 pm

The stronger that he is in English, the stronger he will be in other languages! Well, assuming that English is his native language!

wenjonggal June 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Well, Chinese would be his “native” language, but he never spoke it. His first language is most definitely English now, then French, then Chinese. I don’t even know he can put together a sentence in Chinese now, despite watching dvds etc… So yes, I try to work on his skills the most in English…

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