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Reading Aloud Strategies for Bilingual Learners

Reading aloud to children benefits more than improvements in reading comprehension. That is, reading aloud to young children at a young age encourages them to develop language skills, cognitive development, and listening skills.

Besides, reading aloud is not an activity for young readers only, older and emerging readers also benefit. Do you often use storytelling as a means to read aloud?

That is a perfect way to introduce students new vocabulary. In addition to offering an opportunity to read aloud, you also implement ways for students to process new words and language skills. 

Reading Aloud Benefits

Bilingual learners are probably the best group of children to benefit from reading aloud. Reading experts conducted studies to reveal that people that read aloud words, instead of silently, tend to recite and recall those words. Whereas people that read to themselves, recalling words was significantly less.

Consequently, after many trials, people with various reading aloud activities retained new words. Imagine ELL or dual immersion students in classrooms with more than one language. Of course, you might think that reading aloud in class is chaotic.

  • However, a simple reading aloud exercise can have a more significant impact on those students than silent reading.
  • Aside from using picture books and textbook passages, use text that incorporates all aspects of reading.
  • When using bilingual versions in English and Spanish, you serve students with the opportunity to see new words differently.
  • Sure, you have English and Spanish word walls, anchor charts to point terms, and diagrams along your boards.
  • How is reading aloud during circle time, storytime, or discussion time benefiting bilingual learners?
  • With such a simple class activity, you can open the possibilities of reading comprehension and information retention.
  • Much like research depicts, reading aloud makes cognitive connections in young readers that they would otherwise not get from reading alone.
  • For example, as you read a paragraph or short story, take that time to emphasize word recognition, letter identification, differences in syllable in English and Spanish, and phonetics.

When reading aloud becomes part of the classroom routine, the reading process nourishes their learning experiences. 

reading aloud

Reading Comprehension Improvements

One of the essential aspects of reading aloud activities is improvements in reading comprehension.

For instance, experts found that students in these environments

  • increase vocabulary acquisition,
  • improve language development, and
  • develop better listening skills.

Aside from the valuable benefits of reading comprehension, children gain increase reading and math skills, improve attention awareness, and increase word recognition. More importantly, when parents read aloud to children, they develop a bonding relationship.

For example, take the time to explain to your child when your child is curious about a topic or a new word comes up.

  • Show them what that word means and its function.
  • Then, you can discuss the word in English and Spanish.
  • Tell them how the word can relate in picture books or stories.
  • You can further emphasize the cultural aspect of these words.

In that way, reading aloud in English and Spanish enriches the language skills in children and fosters learning in both languages.  

Reading Aloud Techniques

Bilingual stories in English and Spanish are ideal choices for ELL readers. You have the text in English and Spanish side-by-side.

So, when you read aloud, you can use these bilingual stories to emphasize English and Spanish new words.

  • Point to the words and the text that relates to that word.
  • In that way, children make connections between the visual word and the characteristic of the word in context.
  • This type of active reading strengthens vocabulary retention, recall, and repetition.

Because children need to learn new words in more than one way, using various kinds of text helps with that learning aspect. In addition to using words in context, implement discussions about the new word in phrases or sentences.

  • Highlight the word in the text with the similar or opposite meaning, if possible.
  • Interacting with the text is probably the best way to encourage active reading.
  • However, that may not be possible with hardcover or softcover books.

When you use digital formats of text that you can print, you provide students to circle those words and interact with the text.

Tools for Bilingual Reading

Other ways to use reading aloud techniques is to show but not necessarily tell. Make use of storytelling with various components such as

  • facial expressions,
  • flannel boards,
  • pictures,
  • diagrams,
  • hand movements,
  • captions on text, and
  • charts.

Whether you read aloud at storytime or in the classroom, use a variety of books. For example, add multiple types of nonfiction, fantasy, graphic novel, nursery rhymes, and poetry to your reading list.

Also, encourage children to select the books they would like to read. When they participate in their reading selections, they are more apt to continue reading on their own.

Then, take the time to read aloud. Regardless of the reading material you choose, reading aloud is a fundamental language skill to carry them through life. 

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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