I've personally seen this work well for friends proficient in Spanish who are trying to learn English. By reading the same book in both languages they were able to not only build vocabulary, but it was a good way to also understand the meaning and context (semantics) of how to use their second language. -Patricia
By: Andy Kenney, Staff Writer / The Daily Reel
August 29, 2007
Students in the kindergarten classes at Carrboro Elementary School walked away from their first day of school Monday with some interesting reading material.
"La Oruga Muy Hambrienta" might not ring a bell, but perhaps "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" does. Each student received both an English and Spanish edition of Eric Carle's children's book, which has sold 12 million copies since 1969.
"If you get presented with a Spanish book that you're not fluent enough to read, it opens up a whole new world," said parent Kirsten Barker, who first brought the idea to the school last spring.
Barker has two students at Carrboro Elementary and is on the school-improvement team.
The book program is part of the school's continuing efforts to raise literacy test scores and is typical of the school's bilingual culture, where the automated phone service helps visitors in both English and Spanish. Most signs in the school are posted in both languages.
Principal Emily Bivins said about one-third of the school's population speaks Spanish at home.
Data from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools indicate that at the start of the last school year, 96 of the 532 students were Hispanic.
One of the school's most notable efforts is its 227-student dual-language program, where a mix of native Spanish- and English-speaking children learn in both languages.
The program, which just added a fifth-grade component, has equal amounts of teaching done in Spanish and English.
"They're learning in the language, not just learning the language," said Shawn Williams, a kindergarten-level dual-language teacher.
The school's focus on literacy and bilingualism has another driving force. In past years the school has not met certain requirements mandated by No Child Left Behind.
"We're held extremely accountable," Bivins said.
Bivins said that part of the reason for the school's problems is that the tests do not take into account a child's native language. In fact, they set benchmarks for minority groups, and if they are not met, the school can be considered "failing."
Eighty-nine percent of Carrboro Elementary students were considered proficient by the English language comprehension test, but only 62 percent of Hispanic students at the school achieved proficiency.
"I think you have to have accountability for children's progress, but you have to look at the demographics of the school," Williams said.
"When you know that language acquisition takes five to seven years, I think that must be taken into account," Williams added.
But dual-language programs might help improve literacy scores.
"Research indicates that kids that learn in two languages have higher academic skills than their peers," said Miriam Casimir, a veteran teacher of the Carrboro dual-language program.
Dual-language students may lag behind other classes at first, but by the third year they tend to equal and surpass their peers, even on end-of-year tests, Casimir said.
"The Very Hungry Caterpillar," which delighted students and parents alike, might just be the crest of the wave.
"They learn to appreciate another culture and language," Williams said. "What a powerful thing in our society, to be multilingual."