Supporting Early Literacy in Spanish and English


Creating early literacy abilities is vital for all pupils, especially the five million English learners (ELs) currently being educated in today’s general public colleges.1 The mastery of these skills—including oral language, phonological awareness, phonemic consciousness, and use of phonics—helps ELs acquire the robust reading foundation required for quality-degree mastering and accomplishment across all matter regions. Whether these early literacy skills are taught in students’ 1st languages or the target language of English, they are essential to guaranteeing students’ very long-term achievements.

By the Quantities: The Need to Guidance ELs
Data demonstrates Hispanic pupils expert bigger unfinished studying in looking through, as perfectly as math, more than the past two yrs thanks to the pandemic. The Comprehension College student Finding out: Insights from Slide 2021 report located faculties serving the vast majority Hispanic pupils noticed almost double the sum of unfinished finding out in third-grade looking through and math over these two many years as in comparison to educational facilities serving majority White college students.2 The share of Hispanic students who are guiding grew by 14 factors, in accordance to i-Completely ready Evaluation information.

Californians Collectively also cites that of the 1.15 million EL college students in California by itself, 200,000 of these college students are labeled as extended-expression English learners (LTELs)—EL learners who have been in US colleges for six or much more several years without having reaching the degrees of English proficiency essential to be reclassified.3 A different 130,000 ELs in the point out are viewed as at risk of turning out to be LTELs, according to the group.

These quantities strengthen the quick need to have to handle foundational studying skills with EL learners. So, what just can educators do to aid ELs when it will come to their early literacy enhancement?

Comprehension the Variances
The Overview of Reading white paper in development by Curriculum Associates delves into the many aspects of educating looking at in the two English and Spanish. It, importantly, reminds educators that:

• Studying to read is not an automated method

• Reading through calls for mastering the codes of the language

• There are distinctive variations concerning early literacy progress in Spanish and English

To efficiently instruct studying in both Spanish and English, it is 1st important for educators to truly understand the distinct differences between the two languages—especially because the two languages can look rather identical. Likewise, it is vital for educators to teach these discrepancies to pupils.

To commence with, English has 26 letters in the alphabet and 44 phonemes or appears, whilst Spanish has 27 letters and 22–24 phonemes.

The white paper describes English as “an opaque language” that is very irregular and does not have a one particular-to-one particular grapheme–sound correlation. For example, the letter a has many sounds, as in over /ə/, pat /æ/, late /eɪ/.”

Spanish is described as “a much more transparent language,” that means that “the correlation in between a letter and seem is regular, a person-to-one, and really consistent.” An a is generally /a/, for instance.

Concentrating on Phonological Recognition
The white paper goes on to say that the languages’ diverse phonologies can effect students’ phonological recognition, or their capability to “identify and manipulate various items of oral language, these kinds of as sentences, terms, syllables, and unique appears.”

With this in thoughts, educators should often check out to stay genuine to the phonology of each language when instructing. Educators must also function to provide intentional, specific, and systematic instruction to assist biliteracy. And, for talent development, educators must offer opportunities for pupils to make cross-language connections and build metalinguistic awareness.

Employing an appropriate scope and sequence focused on phonological awareness can effectively help this type of instruction. To assistance ELs and literacy instruction in twin-language lecture rooms, a phonological awareness scope and sequence really should ideally:

• Deal with the capabilities students have to have to be profitable in both equally Spanish and English

• Include things like lessons that concentrate on a person ability at a time

• Supply the option for educators to instruct on these expertise and time for college students to practice these competencies

• Frequently create upon competencies and comprehending college students realized in prior lessons

• Continue to keep students engaged and centered all over the mastering course of action

The scope and sequence should really also include lessons that concentrate on one particular phonological awareness skill—such as rhyming, mixing, segmenting, isolating, manipulating, and stressed syllable—at a time to assist assist and speed up students’ progress. When choosing superior-top quality classes, educators need to furthermore search for ones that characteristic:

• High-utility, quality-suitable terms

• Chances for blending letter sounds and syllables

• Engaging, alliterative text

• Decodable textual content encounters for pupils

• Culturally applicable stories and illustrations

In early Spanish reading instruction, it is efficient to educate students about vowels 1st. The moment these letters are mastered, educators can transfer to large-frequency consonants. This assists college students much more easily decode phrases and implement letter–sound associations to phrases with target seems as they browse.

Supplying Aid in Both of those Languages
In addition to the strategies over, it is significant to bear in mind that emerging bilingual students do most effective when they are supported in both English and Spanish. The study “English Examining Growth in Spanish-Speaking Bilingual Pupils: Moderating Effect of English Proficiency on Cross-Linguistic Influence” discovered learners whose native language is Spanish and who experienced early reading through abilities in Spanish showed bigger expansion in their potential to go through English.4

In accordance to the examine, learners who spoke Spanish and had more robust Spanish studying expertise in kindergarten also carried out far better across time.

These conclusions additional fortify the need—and benefit—of educators teaching studying in the two languages. Considering the fact that some literacy skills can transfer across languages, educators can assistance learners use what they have mastered in Spanish to assist looking through in English, and vice versa.

For illustration, once students understand that the prefix im- suggests “not” in both of those Spanish and English, they will speedily be equipped to add far more words—such as not possible/imposible and impatient/impaciente—to their reading vocabulary.

Training pupils to examine is a sophisticated process. And instructing EL pupils to study in two languages at the identical time can without doubt supply additional complexities. However, by providing explicit and systematic instruction and using the appropriate approaches and resources, educators can enable ELs develop the solid looking through skills—in both Spanish and English—needed for ongoing good results.

1. Nationwide Centre for Education Stats (2021). “English Language Learners in Community Faculties.”

2. Curriculum Associates (2021). Comprehending College student Studying: Insights from Tumble 2021.

3. Californians Jointly. Extensive Term English Learners. long-expression-english-learners

4. Relyea, J., and Amendum, S. (2019). “English Reading through Development in Spanish-Talking Bilingual College students: Moderating Effect of English Proficiency on Cross-Linguistic Impact.”

Claudia Salinas is the vice president of English discovering at Curriculum Associates ( and the regional supervisor for Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. She is accountable for assisting college leaders meet the requires of their English and struggling learners by bringing research-based experienced advancement, assessments, and requirements-centered instructional materials into faculty districts.

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