Striving for Literacy in Bilingualism, Biculturalism

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 29, 2013 | Go to article overview

Striving for Literacy in Bilingualism, Biculturalism


"No child has to lose a language to learn another language."

That's the philosophy of Elgin Area School District U-46's dual language program, which started last year, offering students a chance to strive for bilingualism instead of merely English proficiency.

Wilma Valero started with the district 23 years ago as a kindergarten bilingual teacher, then she became a reading coach, a program coordinator and now director of the U-46 English Language Learners Department, which includes English as a Second Language classes, Bilingual Education and Dual Language programs.

Long-term studies show that Dual Language is the only category of the three that can close the achievement gap for students who come to school dominant in a language other than English. Beyond that, dual language instruction offers a chance for young English speakers to learn a second language alongside their Spanish-speaking peers during their elementary years.

"When the students work in collaboration, you are learning my language and culture, I am learning your language and culture, and we are empowering each other in this global society," Valero said.

Besides creating students who are capable of speaking both languages, Valero said Dual Language focuses on reading and writing ability in both languages as well as fostering cultural understanding among diverse groups of students.

In traditional bilingual education, students start off getting 80 percent of their instruction in their first language -- Spanish in U-46 -- with the goal of flipping the ratio by the time they age out of the program. …

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