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No Limits to Literacy for Preschool English Learners

No Limits to Literacy for Preschool English Learners

Edited by:

January 2009 | 264 pages | Corwin

"This book offers a foundation in language and literacy that greatly benefits dual language learners."
—Pamela S. Allen, Lead Teacher/Gifted Facilitator
Ballantyne Elementary School, Charlotte, NC

Produce strong language and literacy outcomes for the youngest English learners!

Research and practice have established that early oral language and literacy skills development can predict later academic success. But how do young children whose first language is not English become proficient learners, and which classroom strategies have the most impact on literacy learning? This valuable resource helps teachers understand how English learners (ELs) ages 3 to 5 acquire the foundations for literacy and offers practical, research-based strategies for teaching language and literacy skills.

Theresa A. Roberts, an expert literacy practitioner and researcher for preschool ELs, offers strategies that have been field-tested and proven effective by more than 1,000 early childhood educators. One of the few literacy resources available that focuses exclusively on preschool ELs, this book helps teachers of young children:

  • Understand the essential elements for building early literacy skills, including teaching the alphabetic principle, phonological awareness, and vocabulary
  • Encourage family involvement and nurture the home-school alliance
  • Build on children's primary language
  • Strengthen preschool programs serving young ELs

No Limits to Literacy for Preschool English Learners shows teachers how to lead children to high levels of literacy competence, engagement, and enjoyment!

About the Author
1. Resources English Language Learners Bring to Literacy Learning
The Language and Literacy Wellspring

The Emotional Wellspring

The Motivational Wellspring

The Family Wellspring

The Cultural Wellspring


2. Building On and Scaffolding With Primary Language
Why Support Children's Primary Language?

Primary Language and Literacy Achievement

Adding Some Magic: Metacognitive Benefits

Beyond the Words: Social-Emotional Aspects of Primary Language

What Happens to the Primary Language When Children Enter Preschool?

Using Primary Language for Social Communication and Social-Emotional Purposes

Benefits of Using Primary Language for Literacy Learning

Primary Language Resources

Practices for Supporting Primary Language at Home

Different Primary Language Programs

Spending "Time on Task" in English

Patience in Achieving Bilingualism


3. Oral Language Development in a Second Language
Second Language Learning in Naturalistic Settings

Second Language Learning in Preschool Settings

Examining the Silent or Receptive Stage in Second Language Acquisition

Learning About Language Acquisition From Caregivers

Cultural Variations in Caregiver Speech and a Challenge for Educators

Language for Basic Communication and Academic Learning

How Children Learn the Meaning of Words

Learning Words From Instruction

The Relationship Between Oral Language and Second Language Literacy

Classroom Contexts for Language Development

The Wonder and Limits of Storybook Reading

Conversations With Children

Language Development During Center Time

Talking-Up Routines and Transitions

Mealtime Opportunities for Talking

Language and Literacy Enhanced Play

Teacher Oral Language: An Elephant in the Room

Home Influences on Second Language Learning


4. Befriending the Alphabet: Why and How
Can Children With Limited Knowledge of English Learn the English Alphabet?

Why Explicit Instruction Is Beneficial

Going Deeper Into the Alphabet

Should Letter Names or Letter Sounds be Taught First?

How Should the Uppercase and Lowercase Letters be Taught?

Learning Personal Names

Making the Connection Between Letters and Meaningful Printed Words

Writing Helps Children Learn the Alphabet

Teaching the Alphabet in a Language Other Than English

How Much Letter Instruction Is Needed?


5. Sounds in Words: Phonological Awareness
What is Phonological Awareness?

Words: The Foundation of Phonological Awareness

Unnatural Aspects of Phonological Awareness

Preschool Phonological Awareness and Later Reading

Can Preschool Children Learn Phonological Awareness?

Connections Between L1 and L2 Phonological Awareness

Learning Phonological Awareness in a Second Language

The Joined Hands of Vocabulary and the Alphabet

Does Second Language Pronunciation Matter?

How Much Phonological Awareness Do Preschool English Learners Need?

What's Up With Rhyming?

Making Sounds Stand Still and Be Concrete

The Language Used in Phonological Awareness Instruction


6. Curriculum, Instruction, and Literacy Activity
Essential Elements of an Effective Curriculum

An Articulated Curriculum

Matching Goals With Teaching Strategies/Activities

The Language of Instruction

Building Relationships While Fostering Literacy

Teachers' Support and Instructional Roles

The Value of Small Groups and One-one-One Teaching

Increasing Opportunities for Teachers' Support Role

The Language of Relationship Building

The Benefits of Explicit Instruction

High-Quality Teaching and Learning

Child Choice and Literacy Instruction

Using Assessment to Benefit Children

Teachers: The Critical Ingredient

Program and Instruction Evaluations

Challenges for Moving Forward


7. Engaging Family Caregivers
Create an Alliance

Focus on Language and Literacy

Thinking Processes and Positive Relationships Working Together

Home Emotional Support for Literacy

Home Cognitive Support for Literacy

Family Responsive and Family Tailored Approaches

Teacher Influences on Family Engagement

Family Caregivers and Children Reading Together

Family Caregivers and Children Playfully Solving Problems Together

Engaging Family Caregivers in the Classroom

One Model for Engaging Families

High-Quality Family Engagement Practices


8. Motivation for Literacy
Characteristics of Motivated Children

Are All Preschool Children Highly Motivated for Literacy?

Linkages Between Preschool Motivation and Later Reading

The Need for Competence and Mastery-Inside Every Child

Effectance Motivation Theory Moves Forward

The Motivational Link Between Thinking and Emotion

Mastery and Performance Orientations

Three Motivational Needs (Competence, Autonomy, Relatedness)

The Compatibility of Autonomy and Structure

The Special Worry of Failure

Does Explicit Instruction Undermine Motivation?

Culture, Language and Motivation for Literacy

The Language of Motivation

Home Influences on Language and Literacy Motivation



"A well-organized text offering theory and application related to second language instruction. This is a useful tool for any educator to have in his or her resource library."

Susan B. Neuman, Professor
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

“This book offers a foundation in language and literacy that greatly benefits dual language learners."

Pamela S. Allen, Lead Teacher/Gifted Facilitator
Ballantyne Elementary School, Charlotte, NC

"This welcome and much needed resource for early education professionals is solidly based on the research on early literacy and language development and on Roberts’ extensive and thoughtful experience in effective instructional applications for English learners. The book is written with the clarity to inspire confidence in teachers to translate research evidence and theory into effective and engaging learning activities."

Patricia Vadasy, Senior Researcher
Washington Research Institute

"A powerful contribution to the field of early literacy. Highlighting the quality of the language model as one of the most important resources for language development, Roberts weaves a rich tapestry of research and practical application and helps us understand what this means for embracing our work with ELLs."

Molly F. Collins, Assistant Professor
Erikson Institute
Key features
  • This is one of the few resources out there that focuses exclusively on preschool ELLs 
  • Addresses current hot topics—literacy and language development in early childhood
  • The author's own extensive research supports the strategies included in the book
  • The book includes a information on family involvement and advocates building on children's primary language, both of which are regarded as essential elements for producing strong language and literacy outcomes

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