A Guide for Working with Young Immigrant Children

Since its publication in September of last year, Roma Chumak-Horbatsch’s book Linguistically Appropriate Practice: A Guide for Working with Young Immigrant Children has done well. It is a guide for those working with children whose first language is not that of the program of instruction, and it is packed with useful information and activities.

The success of this practical and inspiring book in its first year has been marked by adoption at several school boards in Ontario, including the Peel and Toronto District School Boards. The author herself has been a very strong advocate in spreading the word about her book and its program far and wide. She recently created a video outlining her Linguistically Appropriate Practice (LAP) program to reach even more potential users:

This book can go a long way in helping to enrich not only the classrooms of young immigrant children, but also the classrooms of student teachers who will soon be educating them. The importance of finding a passion for teaching in ways that are most beneficial to the learner is a critical part of this book’s message, as well as its success. We asked Roma about her favourite part of teaching, and she replied:

“Spending time with real children—which I try to do as often as possible—is both enjoyable and important for me. It takes me away from what I call the paper children that inhabit my academic responsibilities and helps ensure that my work accurately reflects the reality of young children.”

This is a true testament to the value of this book’s program—the LAP method has been developed and used by the author herself, and her passion for its feasibility shines through in its accomplishments.

We also had a chance to ask Roma some thought-provoking questions about the book that potential readers may wonder about:

UTP: What made you decide to write this book?

RCH: Three things:

  1. The attention paid to the language and literacy needs of young immigrant children in policy documents and curriculum guidelines is peripheral and general.
  2. The current adoption of practices—that focus on the hasty mastery of the classroom language—fall short of meeting the dual language and literacy needs of children who walk in two language worlds.
  3. Most early childhood professionals remain unsure of what works best with young immigrant children. Over the years many have asked for concrete guidance in their work with children who arrive with little understanding of the language of program delivery.

UTP: What is your favourite part of the LAP process to discuss with potential users of the program?

RCH: LAP is cheap and easy to implement! No cost, no kits, no DVDs. LAP asks the early childhood practitioners to do FIVE things:

  1. View immigrant children as budding bilinguals and not simply learners of English (or French).
  2. Take the time to understand the language reality of immigrant children.
  3. Support the dual language and literacy needs of immigrant children.
  4. Become home language advocates.
  5. Help immigrant children realize their bilingual potential.

UTP: What is the most important piece of advice you would give to an early childhood educator beginning to use the LAP system?

RCH: A few things:

  1. Familiarize yourself with LAP and proceed slowly!
  2. Bring home languages into your program gradually.
  3. Communicate to children and parents that using home languages in the classroom is both acceptable and natural.
  4. Challenge the outdated thinking—entrenched in the minds of parents, most teachers, and even very young children—that languages must be separated: only English (or French) in the school; home languages outside of school.

Linguistically Appropriate Practice has pedagogy written all over it. Watching Roma’s new video and reading the book should excite educators of young immigrant children, not only because of the suggested activities, but because her advice is so easy to implement.

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