Tiana Cowan and Brittany Williams
In June of 2016 the Office of the Administration for Children and Families released the policy statement Supporting the Development of Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Programs. The statement asserts that the Federal laws pertaining to children’s rights to special education extend to bilingual and multilingual children. This means that school districts must consider the child’s individual language needs when providing special education services.
Importantly, the document also affirms that there is no evidence to suggest that children with developmental disabilities should only be exposed to one language. Instead, it recommends supporting development in the home language(s), and the languages integral to the child’s community as a best practice for education.
In addition to laying down some dual language learner laws, the document also points out some systemic barriers to educating bilingual children. For example, the majority of teachers in the U.S. are monolingual English speakers, which makes it difficult to support development of the home language in the classroom. In addition, there is a need for more specialized curricula and accurate language measures to be developed for children who speak multiple languages.1
In case you’re wondering what you can do in your community to help address these issues, we’ve included some suggestions below. We hope you’ll consider using some of the information presented here to help support bilingual and multilingual learners in your area.
1 U.S. Office of Administration of Children and Families. (2016). Supporting the Development of Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Programs. Retrieved from: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/essatitleiiiguidenglishlearners10219.pdf
2 Callahan, R. M., & Gándara, P. C. (Eds.). (2014). The bilingual advantage: Language, literacy and the US labor market (Vol. 99). Multilingual Matters.
3 National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Resources (NCCLR). 2012. Dual language learners in state learning guidelines and standards.
CLS graduate students Jessica Vélez Avilés and Robert Klosinski share literature and songs from Puerto Rico and Germany at the Saturday Stories Alive series in Schlow Library.