Photo: ELL Coordinator Summer Ostlund (left) with Donor Judith Culver (right).
There is currently a great need in our community to provide educational opportunities for English Language Learners (ELLs) who are also beginning readers. These individuals did not have the opportunity to go to school to learn to read and write as children in their home countries. As adult immigrants, they are learning English at the same time that they learn basic literacy skills. This high need population is frequently underserved as they are often not successful in traditional adult ELL classes due to their unique needs.
At the Whatcom Literacy Council, English Language Learners who are beginning readers often come to us from Mexico, Central America, Africa and are also recent refugees from the Middle East. Many of these adult learners share personal stories of poverty in their home countries where they were forced to work as children and did not have the option to go to school because their families could not afford the tuition. Other learners express that they did not receive access to education due to a medical disability, war or political unrest in their home country or a variety of other reasons.
Emerging readers need a lot of repetition with basic literacy skills. Finding available materials at this level is challenging because it is common for them to be geared toward children or individuals whose native language is English. The other option – to create materials for use with learners – can be very time consuming for tutors. Having access to appropriate materials greatly improves student learning as well as tutor satisfaction and long term learner and tutor retention.
Technology can also be a valuable support for learners as it is a challenge to find materials at a learner’s independent level. Digital voice recorders allow for a tutor to record key points from a lesson for the learner to take home and review independently. These tools can be used by learners with no prior computer literacy skills. Learners who have previously been unable to study independently find that they can practice very effectively on their own with the help of a recorder. It is exciting to see learners gain confidence and progress more rapidly as they use digital recorders on their own.
A $400 donation from WLC supporter Judith Culver will go a long way to provide necessary materials and technology for learners. These supplies will be used for our WLC Ferndale small group class for ELL beginning readers and for our learners who are working with 1 to 1 tutors.
Please contact us for more information about getting involved and supporting our ELL Beginning Reader program.