Using Language to Promote Literacy in Young English Language Learners
Keywords:oral language, ELLs, literacy development
All children walk into our schools using ways they have learned to communicate and problem solve within their homes and communities. These "ways of knowing" are important, familiar, and valued because children have learned them at the knee and by the sides of those they care about the most. As educators, we need to value the "ways of knowing" or "funds of knowledge” (Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005) that accompany all students to school. However, for English language learners (ELLs) or children who first language is not English, if we don't know about their communities and homes, we are teaching blind, so to speak. In this paper, we focus on one foundational area for early literacy development -- oral language as a window into ELL's cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and outline ways teachers can become familiar with their ELLs' "ways of knowing." First, we discuss language as a phenomenon that evolves naturally and serves as the basis upon which literacy develops. Then we offer a number of suggestions for ways teachers can enhance language to benefit young children's literacy development in the preschool through 2nd grade period.