Teaching children to read can be difficult under the best of circumstances. But just imagine the challenge of teaching a child whose first language is not English.
This is the challenge that Karen* faces as she homeschools her children. Karen’s children are “English language learners,” (also known as “second language learners”).
An English language learner, or ELL child, may have a difficult time communicating fluently in English. ELLs often require specialized instruction in the English language and other school-work.
My children are second language learners. Our sons have been in our home since October 2013. We live in Ethiopia, so they have never lived in the United States long-term. In 2014, we visited for five months and are currently here for a short-term stay. We speak English in our family most of the time, but the boys are still very much immersed in their birth language.
We began using AAR and AAS in February 2015. My older son completed AAR levels 2-4 in one year and AAS levels 1-4 in 16 months. My younger son completed the first three AAR levels in one year and the first three spelling levels in 16 months. Both programs helped my children differentiate and identify sounds in the English language. I’m a speech therapist, so I was able to give my kids placement cues and talk to them about the difference in sounds and how they are made in the mouth. This helped a lot with phoneme discrimination and articulation. I didn’t use the phonogram app because of my experience and training, but this would be a huge help for other English language learners.
The programs also support vocabulary building and problem solving. One of my sons is a very visual learner, and my other son needs to know why things are the way they are in order for him to understand them. But despite their differences, the programs are perfect for both of them.
The programs have helped develop my sons’ problem-solving skills. It is wonderful to watch as they talk out loud to themselves and reason out the ways in which they should spell a word. While reading, I never have to tell them what a word says, but can remind them of simple rules or ask them certain questions about a rule, enabling them to successfully decode a word.
My seven-year-old is a visual learner and can often remember a word after reading it just one time. He is ready for All About Reading Level 4, but is not ready for the level of comprehension it requires. I may go ahead and complete the level with him for the sake of building his fluency, but may supplement with other literature to build his comprehension, understanding, and language skills.
These programs are so very different from many other spelling and reading programs, as a child does not have to rely on memorizing individual words in order to decode or spell them.
If your child is gifted at memorizing words, then this program will fit your child and you can move at a faster pace. But if your child has difficulty memorizing words, it gives your child the tools he or she needs to understand how different letters and sounds fit together in order to be a successful reader and speller. It also enables the instructor to quickly see the “holes” where your child might be struggling.
I have a child with each of these learning styles, and they are both thriving. My children LOVE to read AND write because of All About Reading and All About Spelling!
Oh … and did I mention that I am also using AAS with an adult friend who is learning English as a second language? She is thriving in all the same ways that my children are!
Did you enjoy Karen’s story? Read more stories from Real Moms and Real Kids.
Is your child an English language learner who is learning to read or spell with AAR and AAS? Check out our free report, “20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling,” for more great tips!
*To preserve the privacy of the children featured in this story, we did not use the family’s real names.