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How to teach ELLs to Read in Kindergarten

In the education world, there is much debate about the best way
to teach reading instruction to English Language Learners (ELLs) in
Kindergarten. Some argue that, for ELLs, learning to read in their
primary language is easier because it builds on the words and sound
structures that they know best. Others argue that reading should be
taught simultaneously in both the native language as well as in
English. Even still, there are those who argue that it is best to teach
students to read in English only. The truth is, there is no one best
answer because teaching ELLs to read (in Kindergarten) is mostly
dependent upon the quality of instruction provided.
Kindergarten students specifically, are referred to as sponges.
They absorb anything and everything that they are taught; when they
are taught well. They key is, not whether or not we teach ELLs in their
home language; but how we teach them. By allowing ELLs to build
up basic phonetic skills, we are providing them with the tools needed
to be successful readers. The best way to do this is through the
exposure of fun songs, poems, chants, and read-alouds that
allow them to hear and reproduce the sound patterns of
English (Irujo) . According to the article entitled Reading in
Kindergarten (, when teaching ELs phonemic awareness it is imperative
to first assess whether students know these skills in their home
language. If so, it is not necessary for them to learn them again, but,
is important for students to learn letter sounds first before the
names of the letters (which is backwards from non-ELLs). From
there, we should provide excellent instruction of pre-reading and
reading skills (vocabulary development, phonemic awareness,
knowledge of the alphabet, letter-sound correlation, decoding,
comprehension skills) keeping in mind that ELLs may need
additional supports, such as pre-teaching vocabulary before a lesson,
in order to be successful.


Reading in Kindergarten. (2015). Retrieved November 12,



Irujo, S. (2015). What Does Research Tell Us About Teaching
Reading to English Language Learners? Retrieved November
12, 2015, from