Fostering Literacy Development of English Learners

Fostering Literacy Development of English Learners

by Judie Haynes

Colorin Colorado recently posted a guest blog by researcher Karen Ford on the fostering literacy skills for English Language Learners. Here are my reflections on that blog.

I read with great interest Karen Ford's blog on Fostering Literacy Development in English Language Learners. Although this article was written in 2005, Ford presents an impressive amount of research on the acquisition of phonological awareness by young children.

In recent years, literacy development for English learners (ELs) has focused on reading comprehension. We have all had students who have memorized the phonics needed to read orally without hesitation. The problem is that they don't understand what they are reading. Much more attention needs to be paid to developing comprehension skills in young English learners. In order to increase comprehension, phonics needs to be taught in a context that is meaningful to ELs. They also need explicit instruction of vocabulary as Ford indicated.

It was good to read an article that reviewed the research on developing literacy through phonological awareness. However, I think that it is important to point out to classroom teachers and administrators that for ELs, phonics does not equal comprehension. With the emphasis of RTI and other reading programs on phonics, it is easy for school's to neglect the extra help that ELs need in reading comprehension to become proficient readers.

As an aside, I really dislike the term "limited English proficient" and am happy to note that it is no longer used by most researchers from the second language acquisition field. It seems to emphasize what our students can't do rather than celebrate what they are striving to achieve.