The population of students learning English as a second language, or English Learners (ELs) is one of the fastest growing groups. Most of these students are minorities from lower socio-economic family situations. New government programs such as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognize and provide funding for solutions to the challenges facing these students.
In a new white paper, Eileen Hanning M.Ed. and Beth Kara Dawkins Ph.D. argue that dedicated literacy initiatives that include a listening component are particularly important because ELs face extra challenges in learning to read. This stems from the fact that they lack access to key components of the language acquisition process. Many come from families who do not speak English regularly or fluently, let alone read aloud in English. Therefore, these students have little to no opportunity to hear well-developed English at home which limits their ability to create context and improve their vocabularies. Additionally, these students typically live in higher poverty areas and attend schools without easy access to resources. All these challenges build and frustrate ELs' struggle to thrive.
One way to support ELs is to boost their oral language development because it provides the foundation for literacy and future academic success. In the absence of listening to fluent English conversation or books being read aloud by family members, studies have shown that students can benefit from listening to audiobooks.
Audiobooks give ELs the exposure to a wider vocabulary, in context, clearly and correctly pronounced. Access to culturally relevant titles is also vital for this population because students are much more likely to get excited about stories with characters to whom the students can relate. As any educator knows, motivating students is half the battle.
If you'd like to learn more about how audiobooks can support English Learners, please feel free to download and share our most recent white paper.