School Readiness for ESL Families

Child care providers and other early childhood professionals know why early education is so important. With 85% of a child’s capacity for learning determined by age 5, making positive early learning experiences is critical for lifelong learning. So the impact of early education is significant for not only children, but also their families and communities.

Now imagine how those facts come into play for families in a new community where neither parent nor children speak the language or understand the culture. How would a parent ensure children’s success, especially in school? A correlation of how children’s play translates to school readiness can be difficult for people outside the field to understand, but even more so for families of different cultures with different languages as they move to new communities for jobs and schooling.

Understanding the challenges of families learning English as a second language and a different culture is the first step. The second is providing quality early learning experiences to meet the needs of bilingual, bi-cultural children. So how can child care providers help?

  • Know that children will learn languages naturally through interactions with English speakers, and banning the use of the first language can be harmful for young children.
  • Gain an understanding of families’ cultures and expectations and how they are different from yours. Try to incorporate some things from other cultures into your program.
  • Incorporate books, songs and speakers representing different languages into your program.
  • Evaluate children’s progress and talk with parents about it.
  • Plan learning experiences that can be used at home as well as in child care, and show those ideas to parents.
  • Help parents make a connection to the school system before it’s time to enroll so they feel more comfortable making decisions and asking questions.
  • Reassure parents that throughout the process of learning, they continue to be their children’s best and most important teachers.