Puente de Cuentos: Building a bridge between languages

About 22% of school children in the U.S. speak no English at home

How parents and teachers can build kid's vocabulary and reading skills in English and their native language.

TAMPA, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- About 22% of school children in the U.S. speak no English at home. Starting school with limited or no English skills may make keeping up with reading and vocabulary challenging.

However, there is an intervention program called “Bridge of Stories” that is helping build these kids’ language skills in both English and their home language.

For some Spanish-speaking children, preschool may be the first time children are immersed in another language.

“She speaks at school, so she only speaks English, but at my house she speaks Spanish,” said parent, Ana Guerrero de Vargas.

“There are some parents at home that don’t speak English and they don’t know how to help the students,” explained Ana Luna, Head Start teacher.

Trina Spencer, PhD, BCBA-D, Intervention Scientist with University of South Florida, studies preschoolers who are learning English as a second language.

“We build their first language by doing storytelling and academic vocabulary and boost up their first language and then we make a quick transfer over to English,” said Spencer.

Preschoolers placed in a Spanish-English intervention group had better vocabulary and storytelling skills in both languages than those who did not receive the bilingual storytelling intervention.

“There’s intentional overlap between the Spanish and English lesson so that we can kind of build a bridge between the two languages,” stated Spencer.

Spencer says even if parents are not proficient in English, they can still use oral storytelling in their native language to build up their child’s language skills. Use complex words, long sentences and tell stories from your own culture and experiences. Then ask kids to retell the stories in their own words, making sure no child gets left behind.

According to the Department of Education, only 63% of students who learned English as a second language graduate from high school compared to the national rate of 82%. And of those ESL students who graduate, only 1.4% of them continue on to take college entrance exams.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor. Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

About the Authors:

Roslyn Jimenez is a news producer at KSAT. Before joining the team, she was a producer and video editor at KIII-TV and a radio intern in Corpus Christi. She graduated from Del Mar College with an Associate's degree in political science and liberal arts. Roslyn is family-oriented and loves spending time with her fiancé and chihuahua Paco.

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.