Read-Alouds as an Opportunity to Reach Dual Language Learners and Culturally Diverse Classrooms

Storytime is a great way to teach the fundamental skills necessary to begin learning how to read. As classrooms have become more culturally diverse it is imperative that literacy experiences reach those children with different languages and cultures. We can use read-alouds as an opportunity to reach all our students. How do we teach English literacy skills to students who are learning multiple languages and come from different cultures than our own?

Today’s preschools have more diversity than ever. Listening to a story that is being read aloud is different for children who may not be as proficient in English, and are learning multiple languages at once. If you have students who are multilingual, there are several strategies that can be used to reach all your students during story time.

If you speak the home language of dual language students, there are numerous ways to incorporate the language into your read-aloud. Introducing the book in the children’s home language is a great way to start. This will help with comprehension of the content of the story. If you don’t speak the home language, think of someone you could invite into your classroom to read the book with your students in their home language. You could ask a family member, community volunteer, or a bilingual staff member.

Introduce targeted vocabulary words during the read-aloud. Learn a few book-related target words, in the children’s home language. Teachers should introduce the word in both English and the home language before the read-aloud. Make clear connections between the words in English and the home language. Even if you do not speak the children’s home language, focus words are a realistic way to be intentional in making connections to the home language. Teachers who are not fluent in the home language can find the target vocabulary in the dictionary or online translation, can ask for help from the children’s family members, or find other helpful resources. The goal is to help the child connect to the English language they are learning in the classroom.

Visual aids can be very helpful when connecting children who are less proficient in English to the lesson that is being taught. Create visuals for each target vocabulary word and introduce these words. Print out an image that represents each target word or focus vocabulary word. While introducing the new vocabulary to your students, point to the appropriate image and engage the students through gestures and facial expressions. Using gestures and pointing are critical strategies that help children build a better understanding of the characters, vocabulary, and overall storyline.

Incorporating culturally relevant books will benefit all of the children in your program. They will learn something new about their friend’s culture, learn new vocabulary, and gain more world knowledge. Also, the children whose culture was represented in the book will feel celebrated and have a greater sense of belonging within the classroom, building a stronger community within your program