Illinois Early Learning Project


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IEL Blog: Teaching and Parenting Young English Language Learners

IEL Blog: Teaching and Parenting Young English Language Learners
Maintaining Home Language Is Key to Later Reading in English
By Bernadette M. Laumann, March 2014
 Bernadette M. Laumann

Dr. Bernadette M. Laumann is the coordinator of the Illinois Early Learning Project. She has been a child care teacher, an early childhood special education teacher, director of an inclusive early childhood program, researcher, and university teacher educator. Her research interests include mentoring and induction activities for beginning teachers and the use of technology in connecting evidence-based practice.

One of the most important ways families, teachers, and caregivers of young dual language learners (DLLs) can promote development is by connecting words children have learned in their home language to words in English. The development of oral language is a foundation for later reading. It is very important to encourage the development of strong oral language skills in the child’s home language.

As more young DLLs enter child care and other preschool settings, their families, teachers, and caregivers wonder about how to support early development. The Expressive Communication section of the 2013 Illinois Early Learning Guidelines for Children Birth to Age Three includes strategies for interaction to help children develop a large and rich vocabulary. Below are recommendations for family members and other caregivers to help develop a young DLL’s oral language skills:

  1. Show appreciation when the child is attempting new words in either language.
  2. Talk and read with the child often; use words and books that reflect the home culture.
  3. Narrate what is occurring throughout the child’s day (e.g., “Let’s sit down and have lunch”).

When families, teachers, and other caregivers focus on young children’s oral language development in their home language, they set the stage for future success in early literacy and reading skills in both their home language and in English (Magruder, Hayslip, Espinosa, & Matera, 2013). A strong oral language foundation in the home language enhances communication between families and their young children and is a basis for later reading and writing in both the home language and English.

IEL Resources

  • 2013 Illinois Early Learning Guidelines
    Domain 3: Language Development, Communication, & Literacy
    Expressive Communication
  • 2013 Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards
    English Language Learner Home Language Development
    English | Spanish
  • IEL Blog: Teaching and Parenting Young English Language Learners
    A Mother's Story: Birth to 2
    By Hyejin Park, November 2013

Additional Resources

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