Bilingual Child Care and Education : Supporting Research
- Bilingual Children’s Language and Literacy Development: New Zealand Case Studies (Child Language and Child Development, 4)
by Roger Barnard, Ted Glynn
- Raising a Bilingual Child (Living Language)
Barbara Zurer Pearson (Author), Living Language (Author)
- One Child, Two Languages: A Guide for Early Childhood Educators of Children Learning English as a Second Language
Patton O. Tabors
Immersion education and the value of bilingual skills and cultural sensitivity are increasingly becoming recognized as essential to preparing children for success in our globally connected World. Like many other urban areas across the nation, San Antonio and surrounding areas have experienced significant growth in the number of companies doing business internationally as well as significant immigration, particularly from Latin and South America. In fact, after African Americans, Latinos comprise the largest non-white minority group in the state. The Latino community in Texas currently makes up 32% of the total population.
The growing global interconnectedness being experienced in Texas has changed what we must consider as we educate our children. Our challenge is to ensure that all of our children are prepared to successfully deal with the complexities they will encounter throughout their lives due to the growing diversity of our cities and global connections. The growing number, and popularity, of Dual Language and Immersion programs in San Antonio (in districts such as Northeast ISD, Comal ISD, Alamo Heights ISD, and Northside ISD), makes it clear that English and Spanish native speakers alike, want their children to grow up bilingual and biliterate.
We must also consider how we can ensure that the growing population of immigrant children maintains their identity, language, and cultural heritage in a way that leads to their healthy development and to the richness of our cities.
Several studies document the value of immersion education and bilingualism in addressing these challenges. The following are a few key examples:
- According to the research, immersion students not only acquire second language skills and learn the academic subject matter and concepts, they also maintain a level of English language development comparable to that of their non-immersion peers. As well, it should be noted that further advantages of immersion education are that their “general language skills are enhanced, general cognitive development and academic achievement are enriched, and appreciation of the culture and the people represented by the target language is strengthened and broadened” (Holobow, 1988, p. 2). http://www.carla.umn.edu/immersion/acie/vol2/Feb1999.pdf
- Research into the effects of bilingualism on cognitive abilities has found that bilinguals have greater cognitive ability in information processing (Hamers and Blanc, 1989). There are benefits to students enrolled in bilingual education programs that are focused on enrichment. Students who participate in bilingual programs that maintain their native language appear to have better success throughout in their academic careers than students who are forced to abandon their native language in favor of English immersion (Valdivia, 2000). If children are to develop a positive sense of themselves and their culture, bilingual programs can be a key component of that process. Culture groups are defined by their distinctive features; language is one distinguishing feature that is important to cultural identity development and maintenance (Hamers and Blanc. 1989). By the age of six, children have formed a sense of cultural identity by which they categorize themselves as different (Hamers and Blanc, 1989). Bilingual programs that integrate the students’culture are particularly important for students of minority status. “The relationship between bilinguality and cultural identity is reciprocal: bilinguality influences the development of cultural identity, which in turn influences the development of bilinguality” (Hamers and Blanc, 1989, page 121). Bilinguals can develop a multicultural identity by which they can adhere to the norms of both the dominant and minority cultures. While there isn’t a strong body of research that demonstrates a causal relationship between identity and academic achievement, there have been some positive relationships between these two variables drawn (Lockett and Harrell, 2003).