Bilingual Early Childhood Education: Grandes Comienzos—Futuros Brillantes!

According to the 2010 United States Census, over 60 million people in the country speak a language other than English at home. Of those, 62 percent speak Spanish at home. By 2020 it is estimated that over 38 million U.S. residents over the age of 5 will speak Spanish in their homes.

This week, Dallas, Texas, will be the host city for the 2014 Annual Conference & Expo of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This year’s conference theme is “Delivering on the Promise of Early Learning,” and teachers, people who teach teachers, administrators, and kids are all participating.

confspanishbanner1 (1)More than forty sessions throughout the conference will be part of the Grandes Comienzos, Futuros Brillantes track. Meaning Great Beginnings—Bright Futures, this programming will be held in English and Spanish and will address the special needs of the largest population of English language learners (ELL) in our schools. Most sessions will be geared to dual language learners: children from Spanish-speaking households who will continue to speak Spanish at home but need to navigate school and beyond with a solid understand of written and spoken English.

When Spanish-speaking preschoolers enter a classroom, they usually bring limited skills in the English language. Through carefully developed curriculum modeled by bilingual teachers, children are taught to speak, read, and comprehend in both languages. A three-year-old may come to class with strong Spanish comprehension, but practically none in English. Bilingual programs aim to move them along and close the gap between the two. reading to toddler (c) Arekmalang | Dreamstime.comFor example, a four-year-old may comprehend 65 percent of the Spanish words and statements she hears, but only 25 percent of the English ones. By the time she is ready for kindergarten, her comprehension in both languages will have grown, perhaps to 75 percent in Spanish and 50 percent in English. As she continues through elementary school, this gap will continue to close.

The science of developing a bilingual curriculum that fully aligns with Common Core State Standards is complex, but solid offerings are available in the education marketplace. There are also hundreds of great bilingual books for preschoolers. These books are not only useful in classrooms, but they can help a Spanish-speaking parent show the importance of mastering both languages. A quick search of Amazon brings up 1,500 titles, ranging from classics like Curious George/Jorge el curioso and The Cat in the Hat/El gato en el sombrero to new works written especially to reflect the lives and traditions of Spanish-speaking Americans, like My Family and I/Mi familia y yo. While the majority of these books are for Spanish and English learners, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and several other languages are also available.

FSP Best Behavior seriesFree Spirit Publishing has enjoyed watching educators and kids use our set of bilingual books to help kids grow both their English and Spanish vocabulary and comprehension. Several of our Best Behavior® series books are available, as well as offerings from our Learning to Get Along® series and Trivia for Tots In a Jar®/Trivia para peques en un jarro.

In past centuries, many of our immigrants chose to drop their native languages and only speak English, perhaps as a statement of belonging to their new country. Within two generations, many of these families had lost all of their native language except for a handful of phrases. It is exciting to witness so many families with ELL students committed to carrying their native languages on in the family and community while mastering English and developing new traditions.

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Have you entered to win a set of bilingual books in our Bilingual Book Giveaway? Entries accepted through November 7, 2014.

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About Mary Stennes Wilbourn

Blogger for Free Spirit Publishing.
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