Reading to Pre-K English Language Learners

By Zaida Cendejas-Omari              

When I first started teaching I did not know what kind of books to read to my students, I wanted to read very long stories like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Thumbelina. As I kept learning about reading to 4 and 5 year-old ELL students, I learned that those stories should be introduced to students little by little and in ways that they would know them, but also in ways they would understand them and would make them eager to listen to more stories.

Now, as a veteran teacher, I have learned about strategies that should be implemented with young children. In the beginning, I was told that the more I talked to the students, they would learn more. It was not explained to me about the importance of gesturing and the importance of prosody.

The way we read to students should not be boring, not even when we are reading in their home language, and it should not take forever to finish a book, a book should not be lengthy, (even short stories like “A birthday basket for Tia” or “A bicycle for Rosaura”, should be divided into parts of a whole story).

The importance of using the most accurate book that describes the best way the topic being discussed in the class, should be thoroughly studied. Sometimes the easiest books are the best because they explain the story and the topic in a very comprehensible way. Books for 4 and 5 year-old ELL students, should be short stories, mainly about one topic, with one word or one sentence per page or every other page, that way students can read the picture or drawing to gather more information or make sense of what is being said. Here it is fundamental that the pictures, drawings or any other way of art used to represent what the story is really about, and what the author wants the reader to understand or internalize.

 When beginning to read whichever book always starting with introducing the book, by stating this is a book and continuing with the parts of the book, Title, author, illustrator, Book cover, back cover, spine and asking a question for them to predict about the art represented in the Book cover, it creates a routine, that make students feel like they already know every book, that what the book is about will be different, but it would be something that they would be able to be familiar with because they already feel like part of the book.

These details should be considered when choosing books for pre-k students, and as teachers we should make learning enjoyable through literature in ELL pre-k classrooms. This will ensure students get motivated to read.

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