Our classrooms are growing more and more with diverse student populations. In 2017, English Language Learner (ELL) students accounted for 10 percent of the student population in public schools.
Most young students are great language learners and can often pick up the language easily when it comes to listening and speaking. However, reading and writing skills make for some unique challenges for these students.
While the number of ELL students continues to increase, the support for these students is still lacking. They end up falling behind right from the very beginning.
Many students do not receive the support they need in elementary school when they are first learning to read. The best way to address reading issues is to catch them early on and use effective intervention strategies right away.
What reading skills do most ELL students struggle with?
ELL students often struggle with the same issues as early readers. But, they often struggle with the same skills in a different way.
- Vocabulary – If your child is used to speaking a language other than English at home, they likely learn most of their English vocabulary through media, such as television or movies, or at school. Most likely their vocabulary in their native language is much more advanced than their English vocabulary.
- Phonemic awareness – Some languages have the same sounds and alphabet as in English while others might not have sounds that exist in English. If they do not have a sound in their native language that exists in English, they will have difficulty learning new words and spelling.
- Fluency – Fluency is the rate that you can read and understand words in texts. It is dependent on a reader’s ability to quickly recognize words and learn words that are unfamiliar, so it relies heavily on vocabulary and phonemic awareness.
- Reading Comprehension – Reading comprehension is being able to actually understand and remember what you read. It is essentially the goal of being able to read, but students that struggle with vocabulary, phonemic awareness, and fluency will find comprehension difficult to reach.
How can I improve my reading skills every day?
If your child is falling behind in school because of their reading skills, there are ways you can help them improve every day. Here are some things you can have them do every day that will help see improvement quickly:
- Read often and read a lot – The best way for your ELL child to improve skills like reading comprehension and vocabulary is to practice, practice, and practice. Encourage them to read often and read everything. This does not necessarily mean long novels, but could just be magazines or blogs.
- Choose interesting reading materials – A good way to motivate your child to practice reading is to give them reading materials they are actually interested in. Stay away from books or materials they are already reading in school. Instead let them choose reading materials that interest them.
- Learn the alphabet – For ELL students, learning a new set of sounds and alphabet will be a huge obstacle to overcome to improve their reading. You can help them by reviewing the English alphabet often and even take some time to compare to their native language’s alphabet.
- Build vocabulary – Vocabulary building is important for all new readers, but especially for ELL students. Vocabulary building will help them learn new words and also learn to spot similarities with words when they come across vocabulary they do not know.
- Practice reading speed – Reading speed is also something that can be helpful for ELL students to practice. Reading faster can help them catch up to their peers’ reading level and also helps them with learning other subjects in school.
- Use online tools to help – An important part of learning today is using online tools to help. Online tools such as interactive websites and apps can help your child improve their skills every day at home.
What tools can help me improve my reading skills?
The internet is truly the best gift for learning at home. There are plenty of reading apps and websites dedicated to helping struggling readers of all levels. Here are some of our favorites:
- Rewordify – Rewordify is a great website that helps simplify texts so that they are easier to read. You can input any text you like and it will change difficult vocabulary words to be more understandable.
- Vocabulary – Vocabulary.com is a great website to find specific vocabulary lists and exercises to help improve your child’s vocabulary.
- Dictionary apps– Dictionaries are now in app form which makes it easy for your child to access wherever they are. They can learn new vocabulary words as well as become more familiar with English sounds.
- Readability – If you are looking for a more overall form of help for your child, Readability is a great choice that helps them improve their reading skills without even knowing it. The app has several ways it can help support your child’s reading progress.
First, it can be used like an e-reader or audiobook by reading the story to your child as they follow along.
Second, it can act as a private reading tutor by actually listening to your child read aloud and gives them instant error correction when they mispronounce a word. This can help greatly improve their phonemic awareness.
Finally, this online tool helps with reading comprehension through innovative Interactive voice based Question & Answer. The app actually has a discussion with your child about the story they just read by asking them questions about the story.
ELL students may not get all the support they need in school to help improve their reading skills. But, there are many ways you can help your child improve at home. The most important thing your child can do to improve is to practice reading every day and to utilize tools such as Readability that are made to help improve every aspect of their reading skills.