January 2010

    You Can Lead a Child to Books…

    January 2010 Cover
    Language and literacy are the tools with which knowledge is built. Without their acquisition, no child has the chance to become an astronaut, a scientist, a doctor, a movie star, or even a musician. Without aspirations, children cannot flourish and life loses some of its magic. Yet, we continue to deny so many of our children the opportunity to develop their own language and literacy skills by refusing them access to books that are suitable for them and might even excite them.
    According to a newly released study (see News, p. 10 by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), in more than 90 percent of school libraries, books in languages other than English account for less than five percent of the collection and, in nearly 60 percent of school libraries, they account for less than one percent. While nearly 14 percent of responding schools reported that at least 25 percent of their students were English Language Learners (ELLs) and a quarter of all respondents rated free-choice reading as the most effective ELL initiative.
    Now, I can already hear the English-only brigade proclaiming that all books in school libraries in America should be in English because that’s the language spoken here, but even the most hardened English-only advocate must appreciate that children will never become literate in any language if they don’t enjoy reading. And reading in a second language is hard work at first —imagine being obliged to pick up War and Peace every night for your bedtime read.
    Librarians consider “school-wide reading initiatives that encourage free choice reading” to be the most effective teaching strategy for ELLs. Many teachers and experts agree (see Opinion, p.26). Restocking our school and public libraries with books that will interest today’s kids is a relatively low cost policy with no drawbacks and an enormous upside. Not only is it a long term investment which will serve children for many years to come, but, for those who are counting, nearly all the money will end up with American publishers (yes, there are many American publishers of books in languages other than English) so the investment will satisfy stimulus package requirements.
    Britain’s Cambridge University recently released the results of a three-year study (see News p.11) into elementary education, which warns “that prescribed pedagogy combined with high stakes testing and the national curriculum amounted to a ‘state theory of learning.’ Prepackaged, government approved lessons are not good for a democracy, nor for children’s education…Pupils do not learn to think for themselves if their teachers are expected to do as they are told.” This completely contradicts the blindly accepted notion that more standards and testing make better schools —the basis for the federal education funding.  
    Another $250 million was allocated to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teaching earlier this month. About the same amount of funding would buy an appropriate library book for every child in public school across the nation. Instead of pinning all its hopes of school reform success on standards, assessment, and incentive schemes, the government, like all wise investors, should spread its bets. 


    Speaking Frankly
    The French Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable Pierre Vimont, talks to Language Magazine about the renewed interest in his language

    Islands of Achievement
    Maria Quezada offers examples of educational excellence for English learners and the promotion of biliteracy in California despite the odds

    Emotional Reactions
    Andrea Honigsfeld and Sharon Lupeke share the value of exploring emotions while teaching English

    Stimulus Bill for Thought
    We ask leading language experts: “What should be done with the stimulus windfall of $4 billion that is being earmarked for the Race to the Top program?”

    Argentina’s Passionate Language
    Guillermo Piñon explains how Lunfardo and the Tango have shaped the Spanish of Buenos Aires and Rio de la Plata region

    Agentina’s Spanish Schools
    The eighth largest country in the world offers students a wealth of cultural and language learning opportunities

    Last Writes
    Richard Lederer with a timely message

    Plus all the latest news in language learning technology, book reviews, and source information on language funding


    1. noticed in your article( on your webpage) teachers need to be prepared to teach well two languages. It seems to me that that statement should be corrected to three or more languages! for instance, English. I am a senior citizen returning to school after an absence of 40 years. Or should I not say I am a ‘older person’ returning to school as ‘mature learner’.Tony Dahlin

    2. The academic world follows suit: For example, more and more of our universities are giving honorary degrees to celebrities and justice advocates. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially in recognizing and honoring men and women who have given their lives for justice, except that I doubt that the universities handing out those degrees actually care much about the poor or that they intellectually endorse what the entertainment and sports industries (who produce most of these celebrities) are doing.

    3. Ensour also dismissed reports that forces from the US special operations and CIA spy agency members were training militants fighting against the Syrian government on the Jordanian soil.


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