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Supporting Inclusion for all Language Learners

Although it can be a ‘short cut’ to teach in one language across the board, research has shown the importance for dual language learners to learn in both of their tongues. “While urban schools may face complex challenges in providing effective education for children who speak many languages, they also have access to resources and supports not found in suburban and rural areas (NEMETH 2016).” Some cities have found ways to support the broad spectrum of languages found in their communities. According to Extreme Diversity in Cities: Challenges and Solutions for Programs Serving Young Children and their Families many cities have removed boundary lines for charter schools, signage is displayed in a multitude of languages, teachers are provided with professional development opportunities focused on dual language learners, universal preschools are implanted as well as full day Kindergarten. A charter in Las Vegas has also introduced additional school days to close the gap between dual language learners and English primary learners. A plethora of community resources are also an advantage of urban schools. In areas where a concentration of one ethnicity resides there are church groups, foundations, and funders who are focus on a particular population group. For rare languages, family engagement plays a huge part in making sure everyone is equally represented.

According to What Parents Have to Teach Us About Their Dual Language Learners family engagement is the key to figuring out how to best serve our multilingual children. “… 20 percent of children in America under the age of 5 … live in a household where no one over the age of 13 speaks English as their first language (LUNA,2015).” It is important for educators to understand what language environment is like at home. Surveys are a great tool to do this. The main areas these surveys need to discuss include; home language context, family language and behavior, language and literacy practices, and any family concerns about language.

To bridge the gap between home life and school life, educators can try a few tactics. Making the conscious effort to pair DLL with other DLL or with English speaking learners depending on the desired outcome is a good start. It is also important to keep in mind that sometimes languages develop at different paces. Educators should also be mindful that when a DLL learns to read in their home language, reading in English comes easier. Keeping lending libraries inclusive helps support this outcome. Some inclusive children books include;

How are you? ¿Como estas? by Angela Dominguez is a short tale of an Ostrich making new friends with two inquisitive Giraffes. This children’s book is colorfully illustrated and available in ‘read aloud’ videos on Youtube. It is filled with great tools for emerging Spanish speakers, covering greetings and emotions in both English and Spanish in such a simplistic way primarily English-speaking children can make the associations with ease. It is great for educators who do not have a bilingual background who want to begin the journey of communicating with their dual language learners. How are you? ¿Como estas? can fit into classroom things like emotions, friendship and animals.

Tortuga in Trouble by Ann Whitford is a story of a tortious bring his grandma dinner of ensalada, tamales, and flan in a canasta. The storyline is reminiscent of the classic Little Red Riding Hood tale, making child predications and translations easy with lines like “what big orejas you have”. Unlike How are you? ¿Como estas? who translates each line individually, Tortuga in Trouble is written in a ‘span-glish’ format, switching between English and Spanish in the same sentence. The author took great care in selecting which words to translate so that the story is easily understood by learners in both languages.

A Paintbrush for Paco by Tracey Kyle tells the story of a boy letting his imagination run wild while daydreaming in class. The story is written in the same format as Tortuga in Trouble but instead of a classic tale making it easy to guess translations, the colorful illustrations help tell this story. When Paco is caught doodling in his notebook by his teacher, the teacher doesn’t get upset or reprimand. Instead, his professor brings him to the art class where Paco can express all the lively images floating around his imagination. Tracey Kyle also provided resources for readers and educators. Located in the back of A Paintbrush for Paco is a Spanish to English glossary.

It is interesting to learn just how diverse city schools can be and the measures some schools have taken to be inclusive. “The New York City Department of Education lists more than 160 languages amongst its students and employees (NYC Department of Education, 2016). Los Angels reports 92 languages (LARAEC 2016) and Washington, DC, confirms over 200 (DC Public Schools, n.d) (NEMETH,2016).” In order for these schools to keep up with language barriers and stay on budget, paraprofessionals have been hired at lower salaries and with less educational requirements than teachers (NEMETH 2012/2016). Some city school districts have been hosting recruitment booths outside of their own states in hopes of finding bilingual candidates.

Early childhood centers can use many of these tactics to support their learners from the beginning of their educational career. Building a positive parent-teacher relationship should be the first step. The language survey should be given to families at the time of enrollment and then periodically through out the year so that changes in dynamics can be recorded. Parents and educators can record phrase and words the children say in both languages in a singular format. Other ways to make sure communication stays open include hosting parent focus groups, workshops, individual interviews, and sharing resources (LUNA,2015). With in the center, educators should make sure they have the resources needed to support all languages. These resources include books, manipulatives, pretend play, and displays that reflect a wide range of languages and cultures (NEMETH,2016). Just like urban school districts, early childhood centers need to keep in mind the wide range of languages that could be present in their community. Resources should reflect more than 2 cultures and when possible, staff should be trained in dual languages or, at the very least, be open to learning and working with families to increase their understanding of other languages and cultures.



Dominguez, A. (2018). How are you? = ¿Cómo estás? New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Kyle, T., & Heinsz, J. (2018). A paintbrush for Paco. New York, NY: Little Bee Books. (Kyle & Heinsz, 2018)

Nemeth, K. (2016). Extreme Diversity in Cities: Challenges and Solutions for Programs Serving Young Children and Their Families. NAEYC, (Nov.), 1-9. Retrieved April 21, 2021, from

Paul, A. W., & Long, E. (2009). Tortuga in trouble. New York, NY: Holiday House.

(Paul & Long, 2009)


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