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literacy in two languages

By: Meghan Van Lente

Learning to read has been a long, slow process for my older son Keean, and though he loves to talk, reading hasn’t come easily. Some people have asked if I wished I would have put Keean in an English classroom so that he’d have learned to read more quickly. Our school has a wonderful staff and support team that help him progress at his own pace and never let him feel like he was “behind.” In fact, going to work with the reading specialist was something that everyone wishes they could do in Keean’s class!

But last week, I saw such a moment of coming into his own confidence and love of reading that I just had to share a success in our 4 year journey! Our family had some friends over for the evening. The kids went off to play after dinner, and after my friend and I cleaned up the kitchen, we thought we’d better check on the 8, 5, 4, and 3 year olds. The two littlest boys were playing Paw Patrol puppies, as would be expected. But when I walked into my son Keean’s room, I saw and heard something pleasantly surprising…

kids-onlyKeean is a 3rd grader in a Spanish Immersion program, and his little friend Edith is a kindergartener learning in Spanish as well. He had decided to begin reading her the first book in the Casa del Arbol Magico (Magic Tree House) series. The two were curled up on pillows on the floor, Keean reading out loud, and Edith listening along. He isn’t normally someone interested in reading out loud at home, but told me that he really thought Edith would like it, and that he was going to read her a chapter each time she came over. Honestly, it was such a sweet way that Spanish Immersion has created lovely moments in our house of sharing and connecting in a second language.

As a middle school English language arts teacher,  it has taken patience on my part to give him the time and space to grow and learn developmentally – to recognize the developmental process of learning a new language AND learning to read… and this cool moment of shared reading was just another reminder to me that he’ll come into it in his own time, and that his own motivation means much more than my reminders and encouragements to read. He’s doing it and sharing it in Spanish because he has a good reason and has found an audience that is willing to listen for the joy of the story.

I’m excited to see my boys develop into complex readers and writers in English and Spanish like my 6th grade Spanish Immersion students are, and I’m so glad to have my boys in a school that values and celebrates that developing process of language learning!

Filed under: dliparents, Spanish Immersion, Uncategorized

About the Author

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Kristi Van Dyk is an immersion parent who is passionate about offering dual language immersion as an educational option to all schools and districts. The opportunity to raise bi-lingual children, despite her family’s lack of second language proficiency has expanded the dreams she and her husband have for the future of their children. It is this passion for real life change that Kristi brings to all of our new partner schools. Kristi’s educational training began at Hope College in education in the areas of English and Mathematics for elementary. Kristi pursued additional training in brain based curriculum development through the Midwest Brain and Learning Institute as well as an M.A. in educational administration from Western Michigan University. You can find Kristi connecting with new potential partners, sharing experience with new parents and assisting with training of new teachers.

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