I am an English Language Learner (ELL). Because of this, I know first-hand what it is like for students to feel they lack engaging materials that allow them to develop their English reading skills at their own pace. I also understand the frustration parents often feel. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I saw my mother’s frustration when she struggled to help me with my English homework.
Learning in a new language can be both exciting and beneficial. Yet more often than not, teachers are faced with the difficulty of not having the right tools. In many cases, the academic materials available to students do not respond to their needs.
The initial excitement of learning a language can quickly turn to frustration for both students and teachers. It can leave parents feeling helpless. In 2013, there were 4.4 million ELL students in the United States, 71 percent of them from Spanish-speaking families. These families are bravely tackling education in a language they have not had the chance to master at home, making it increasingly important to find effective ways to ensure that they have the best chance of success.
That’s why I’m so proud to show off Newsela Español. Teachers can support their Spanish-speaking students like never before, giving them quality content to advance their reading comprehension skills alongside their native English-speaking peers. Furthermore – it will give the parents of those students the chance to really engage in the topics their children are discussing in the classroom.
In 2015, a record 33.2 million Hispanics in the United States speak English proficiently, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center. Still, most of these are U.S.-born Latinos. By contrast, foreign-born Latinos still struggle with English. As of 2013, only 34 percent of foreign-born Latinos in the United States spoke English proficiently. With the launch of Newsela Español, we are striving to make this percentage even higher, not only for speaking — but for reading, too.
With leveled articles in Spanish with an English counterpart (likewise leveled at five reading levels), teachers can ensure that their students reading in Spanish are still reading at grade level. Not only can students “scaffold” their reading in Spanish by starting with simple text and making it more complex, they can switch back and forth between languages at every level. Each Spanish article also corresponds to the same Common Core anchor standard as the English version.
By facilitating reading comprehension in more than one language, Newsela Español is leveling the learning field. Asegurémonos que todos los estudiantes —sin importar si el inglés es su primer idioma— tengan todas las herramientas para triunfar en sus estudios.
Patricia Velázquez is a writer and editor with extensive newsroom and advertising experience across digital and print media.