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Importance of literacy in ESL students

Words are everywhere. They appear on signs, television, manuals and books. For individuals who cannot read, their chances for success are slim. One of the greatest at-risk groups for illiteracy is the non-English speakers. The number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the United States has increased substantially and now comprises 9.2 percent of the nationwide student population. During the 2012-2013 school-year, there were about 4.4 million students in some type of language assistance program. Many of these students come from education backgrounds that place them behind their peers, and it is estimated that 70 percent of them live below the poverty line. Many ESL students enter the school system already at a disadvantage based on their limited access to resources. Quality ESL learning models are necessary to ensure students leave school with literacy skills so they can pursue opportunities for higher learning and meaningful careers.

Non-English speakers learn differently

ESL learning occurs differently from a mainstream classroom. ELLs have to learn new sounds to form English words. They may encounter different sentence structures and sometimes there may not be anyone else that speaks their native language in the classroom. One of the greatest challenges to ESL literacy is teaching vocabulary. An ELL can learn all the phonetic sounds that enable them to read fluently, but if they don't have the vocabulary, the sentences they are reading make no sense. Being literate isn't just being able to sound out the words on the page, it's understanding the words that are being read.

Take steps to improve literacy

Improving ESL literacy is not an easy task. Many teachers don't have the knowledge or resources to effectively teach these students how to read. Students who can't read will find it nearly impossible to pass tests, find employment, enter college and or graduate from high school. Teachers can earn an online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Literacy Studies. The coursework focuses on improving student literacy and graduates can pursue an ESL certification. These courses offer educators resources and learning methods to help improve the quality of education that ESL students receive.

Finding ways to improve ESL literacy will improve learning across all subjects. Literacy provides a foundation for all educational and professional pursuits. Teachers are tasked with a difficult job in having several students at different levels. By going back to school for their master's degree, they can learn new tools and skills for improving literacy in their classes and schools.


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