Ten years ago, bilingual educator Kathy Escamilla noticed that schools weren't tailoring education to the population of bilingual children who were entering the system. So she founded Literacy Squared, a research-based biliteracy program. "We created Literacy Squared specifically for kids who were coming to school with the potential of having two languages developed well, and with the idea that a good bilingual education program at the school level could develop both of those skill sets in kids," she says.
On January 21, Escamilla and fellow University of Colorado at Boulder professors Sue Hopewell and Lucinda Soltero-González will be discuss the program at "Literacy Squared: Valuing Bilingualism", hosted by Chautauqua.
Literacy Squared is dedicated to conducting research to find the best ways to teach reading, writing and analysis in English and Spanish to bilingual children. The program's findings are designed to help schools and teachers ensure that they are giving children the tools to be literate in both languages. "We have research out now about the cognitive benefits of bilingualism, showing that it actually affects the executive function of your brain. We're doing a big disservice to the kids who come to school with the potential to know two languages when we only teach them in English. We're actually limiting their cognitive abilities in the future instead of enhancing them," Escamilla explains.
One of the ways Literacy Squared combats this is through paired literacy instruction, which focuses on teaching children from kindergarten on how to read and write in both languages; according to Hopewell, other programs don't introduce a second language until second or third grade. While the program's research is based on kindergarten through fifth grade students, they encourage extending bilingual education over a long period of time.
Literacy Squared: Valuing Bilingualism is part of Chautauqua's education series. "We're going to talk about approach," Escamilla says,"about thinking big and not thinking of kids who come to school with both languages as being limited in those two languages but having potential in both of those languages, and what the school programs do to maximize the potential of those children."
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The community discussion begins at 7 p.m. on January 21 at Chautauqua Community House. Tickets are $10, or $7 for Chautauqua members. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Chautauqua website.