Early Literacy Development and Instruction for Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Education

The purpose of this paper is to inform early childhood practitioners, educational leaders, curriculum developers, and policymakers about literacy development and effective literacy instruction for young, developing bilingual children who are learning English as a new language1 in early childhood classrooms. These emergent bilingual children are often referred to as dual language learners (DLLs), the term used in this paper.2 According to the Migration Policy Institute (2021), these approximately 7.4 million emerging bilingual children make up roughly 33% of all children under age six in the United States. Over 80% of dual language learners are children of color, and about 60% come from a home where Spanish is spoken. Given the critical mass of this growing population and the significant role that early childhood education (ECE) plays in the children’s future academic success, stakeholders at every level will benefit from understanding the research base about DLL’s linguistic and cultural assets and their unique linguistic and sociocultural needs. Pivotal to educators’ effectiveness with young dual language learners is the accompanying professional learning in evidence-based instructional practices that best match those needs.

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