The holidays are over. We’re back at it and into the thick of it. The newness of the school year is long gone and we’re in the grind. The second half of the year. But instead of approaching the year with a renewed vigor and resolve, I’ll admit I’m a bit apprehensive. And that’s because I have a second grader.
Second grade has been a year of changes in our house. Not only is my sweet innocent little boy starting to show twinges of the tween years ahead, but his school experience is changing too. Two and a half years of Spanish only at school is about to change. Two and a half years of being amazed by my child’s remarkable ability to know so much in this foreign and fascinating language. But now we are embarking on a new phase in immersion education and it has me a little spooked. Learning to read in English. In most traditional immersion programs, 2nd grade is when English reading instruction typically begins, usually halfway or so through the year. So just when you feel like you’ve got a handle on the Spanish reading thing, they’re throwing something new in the mix. Some research has shown that immersion students may show a temporary lag in English proficiency, particularly in spelling, grammar and word choice. But this lag is temporary and only usually lasts a year or two. That is because further research has found time and time again that immersion students outperform their English-only peers in the older grades. So why the nerves?
I recently spoke with second grade teacher Jessie Sheldon to find out if I’m alone. As a second grade teacher for 7 years and a product of immersion education herself, she stated, “Many families with students in immersion programs get to first and second grades and see their neighbors, cousins’ kids, etc. reading more advanced [texts] or chapters in English and worry their students are not where they need to be.” Despite these worries, she has found it to really be quite the opposite of what is originally perceived. “Most students are able to quickly and easily transfer the reading skills they have learned in Spanish to English and end up usually surpassing their reading abilities in Spanish within a year or two.”
So what can we do to help? Here are a few suggestions to put your mind at ease and help your child to continue making those awesome gains, regardless of the language.
- Read, read, read. I have come to the conclusion that when in doubt, read. Reading, exposure to literature in either English or Spanish, listening to you model what fluent reading sounds like, talking about books, making connections between what they’ve read and the world around them, it’s all beneficial. Remember, these kids are sponges. Just remember to continue to read in the target language, not just English. Your child can never read too much and as a parent there really isn’t a wrong way to do it.
- Trust the process. Remember what the research says and trust that your kid will catch up.
- Stop talking to other parents! I know that sounds harsh, but in the age of social media, it’s hard not to compare and be constantly aware of what everyone else is doing. But do you really need to know what reading level Johnny across the street is at? Remember the grass is always greener on the other side. So focus on your child’s progress and achievements and just don’t engage in the comparison conversations. And tell your kid to do the same. Remind them they don’t have to be reading the same books at the same level as everyone they know.
- Remember why you signed your child up for an immersion educational experience. The decision likely didn’t come lightly. We all want what is best for our children, regardless of the type of school we have chosen to send them to. Trust your gut and focus on how far they have already come.
So deep breath fellow 2nd grade parents. Just like that popular HBO show, it’s not Winter, rather English is coming. And our kids have got this. We’ve got this.