Thursday, February 23, 2012

Native Language Resources for Parents

I was recently asked by a district administrator for resources to share with parents of English language learners.   In his email, he stated that some parents of ELLs in his district need reassurance that it is ok to use their native language with their children.   In very practical terms, it is critical that parents and children share a common language that they can use to discuss everyday occurrences and key family topics and issues.  Pedagogically, we know that children do better in school when they are immersed in a language-rich environment in the home.  During workshops I explain it like this: parents should
use their strongest language with their child, even if that language is not English.  Parents should use their strongest language because that is the language they can use daily to model rich oral and written discourse. 

Today I am sharing a few of my favorite “parent-friendly” resources that you can access for free online and use with your students’ parents.   These resources can help you to inform parents about the benefits of maintaining and developing students’ native language(s) while they are learning English.I recommend that you share these resources with parents as part of a face-to-face meeting.  In my experience, it is best to plan several parent meetings throughout the year.  These are meetings specifically for parents of ELLs.  The goal of these meetings is to provide parents with a vehicle for learning about the American school system, how to help their children succeed in school, to have their questions answered and their concerns addressed.  These occasional (3-4 times a year) parent meetings help to foster an atmosphere of open communication and strengthen the school-family relationship.  Over time, our families develop a deeper level of trust and come to us with their questions and concerns about their children’s education.  It is within the context of this relationship-building that these resources can best be shared with parents and guardians.  
  • A wonderful handout that lists a number of reasons to continue using your primary language in the home.  It was written by Elizabeth Coehlo and can be found here.
  • Colorin Colorado (based in Washington DC) also has a number of resources for families of ELLs.  Here is their website.   I absolutely love their Reading Tip Sheets for Parents.  They are divided by age (birth to third grade) and available in eleven languages. Click here for a direct link to the tip sheets. 
  • Ryerson University created the "Hold On" website. On this site, you’ll find a professionally produced flyer and PowerPoint presentation that you can download and use for parent presentations. Click here to go to their site. 
Keep in mind that parents often have questions that can be best addressed in a face-to-face meeting, especially if the meeting is conducted in the primary language of the families or with the assistance of interpreters.  Click here for some practical tips for planning these parent meetings.
Special thanks goes out to my IRC colleague, Cristina Sanchez-Lopez, for telling me about some of these wonderful resources! 

Written by: Tammy King

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