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1) I teach English as a foreign language. What is the best way to teach kids how to read English?

Reading is a very complex process, which requires decoding, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Decoding alone is also a complex process involving many sub-skills, including alphabetic knowledge, phonemic awareness skills, phonics skills, and sight word recognition. All of these components are necessary for successful reading. It is important to be sure that there isn't anything standing in the way, such as difficulty with one or more of the skills necessary for easy and accurate reading. The decoding components of reading must be solid, or the reader will spend too much effort sounding out words and will not be able to derive meaning and enjoyment from the story.

The following articles will give you more information concerning the processes involved in reading:

You might also find helpful information in our "Launching Young Readers" Series.

If you work with more than one student at a time, the following articles may help give you ideas for ways you can diversify your instruction to reach all of your students:

The most helpful advice about specific teaching strategies usually comes from other teachers. If you haven't done so already, talk with your colleagues, especially those who have worked with your students in the past, as well as specialists (such as special education teachers, reading specialist, speech clinicians and occupational therapists) who are currently working with some of your students. They can share with you the strategies that they have found to be helpful for the students in your class.

While we cannot endorse any specific reading programs, the following articles from our site address several different programs and their benefits:

Reading Rockets has two sister-sites: LD OnLine and Colorin Colorado. Colorin Colorado is a Spanish language site, and contains several articles which can be viewed and printed in English or Spanish. You can sign up to receive the Colorin Colorado newsletter in Spanish or in English through the site.

2) I am raising my children to be bilingual. What can I do to make them strong readers?

As a parent, you play a critical role in helping your children develop into good readers! You may already be taking the most important first steps by exposing them to books and by reading books with them. By keeping books within easy reach (such as in a basket on the floor), they can explore them when interested. If you don’t already do so, you may want to consider making a quiet time with books part of your children's daily routine. For example, you can read stories together right before naps or bedtime or after a bath. If reading stories becomes a consistent part of their daily routine, they will most likely come to expect, enjoy, and be calmed by this relaxing and intimate time that you share.

The following articles will give you ideas on ways to promote literacy and to share the joy of reading together:

By giving your children positive experiences with books, you are instilling in them a genuine, lifelong passion for reading and learning — a priceless gift! Please use the following link to find numerous resources about English Language learners. Many of these articles address the concerns of teaching bilingual students in all the academic areas.

3) How can I help a bilingual student who understands instructions and responds to multiple choice questions in two languages, but cannot produce his own answers?

It sounds like this student has a problem with expressive language; he is receiving and processing information correctly, he has trouble communicating what he knows. This could be a sign of a learning disability, or it could just be that he is sorting out the two languages in his environment. Lots of children who are raised bilingual have a slight delay in speaking, but they catch up to peers quickly, and are at an advantage because of their bilingualism!

Here is information on Children and Bilingualism from Reading Rockets.

Here is a collection of articles on Speech, Hearing and Language so you can read about normal speech development and warning signs of a bigger problem.

Finally, here is information about speech and language disorders.

If the problem persists and you suspect a processing problem, have this child evaluated by a speech language pathologist. Check the LD OnLine Yellow Pages for local listings.

4) My daughter primarily speaks English, but understands Spanish, and is going to a bilingual kindergarten in the fall. She is very interested in learning to read. Should I teach her first in English or Spanish?

It is fantastic that you are starting early in raising your child in a bilingual environment! It will be such an advantage for her later on. The process of learning to read begins with the understanding that words are made up of sounds (phonological awareness) and that sounds are represented by letters (the early understandings of phonics). Once a child understands these ideas, she can continue on to areas like sounding out letter patterns and building fluent reading skills.

If your child is more comfortable speaking in English, you may want to start by reading in English. As she becomes more comfortable speaking Spanish, she will be able to translate the principles of reading to this language. The most important thing is to continue speaking to her in both languages, and to nurture her phonemic awareness, which will give her the foundation to learn to read in any language!

Check out the Reading Rockets section on early literacy (particularly Children and Bilingualism).

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