The dual language learners in your program may have already made a lot of progress in learning English – but what happens when your program closes for the summer or the children take extended vacations? Teachers worry that young DLLs may lose some of their English skills when they don’t come to school. Here are some ideas you can use to help the children keep up with their English all summer long.
- Send home a collection of bilingual storybooks on the last day of school. Take pictures of the covers of the books before you send them.
- Then – print the bookcover on a post card or paper to mail to the family and ask a few questions about the book. Use this opportunity to remind the family about the book and about conversations they could have: What did you think about the way the bear solved his problem? What would you do if you fell in the mud?
- Better yet – save a few small paperback books and mail them to the family every so often. When a new book arrives, a child is much more likely to be read to that day.
- Ask a local sponsor to help you sign up each family with a children’s magazine subscription that would encourage reading and playing together over the summer. Some examples: High Five, Your Big Backyard or Cricket magazines.
- Look to book donation programs to help you get the books for free or low cost – www.firstbook.org or your local library or bookstore.
- Make one or two phone calls to each child over the break. It only takes a few minutes and can make a big difference in helping the child continue to feel supported by you and part of the school community. Use those calls to mention some of the familiar stories and ask about the books they are reading at home.
- If the families have access to the Internet, you can send the link to the International Children’s Digital Library website – www.icdl.org – where families can gather around and download storybooks for all ages in many different languages.
The main thing is that you are letting young DLLs and their families know that it is important to you that each child should have wonderful learning experiences outside of school in English and their home language so they can all come back to school ready to learn!
This post was contributed by Karen Nemeth. Karen earned her BA in Psychology from William Paterson University and her M.Ed. in Learning, Cognition and Development from Rutgers University. She has been a teacher and a teacher educator for more than 25 years, focusing her expertise on first and second language development in young children. Karen is the author of Many Languages, One Classroom (2009), Many Languages, Building Connections (2012) and, with Fran Simon, Digital Decisions (2012). She is also a NAEYC author and consulting editor. Connect with Karen online at www.languagecastle.com.