Understanding Biliteracy: Exploring the Lived Experiences of Bilingual Reading Specialists
AbstractOver the past 20 years, the United States has seen a rapid increase in school age students entering PK-12 schools for whom English is not their primary home language. These students are known as English learners (ELs). In Oregon, 77% of ELs speak Spanish and constitute the largest minority group, 21% of the total K-12 student enrollment in 2011-2012. With such potential for bilingualism in schools, bilingual teachers should be prepared to teach biliteracy effectively, especially in the early school years when students learn to read. There is an increasing demand for bilingual teachers in Oregon each year to teach in bilingual programs, particularly at the primary grade levels. However, for the most part, the emphasis of instruction and teacher preparation is on developing student English skills rather than supporting bilingualism (Flores, Sheets, & Clark, 2011; Macedo, Dendrinos, & Gounari, 2003; Wink, 2005). There is a need in Oregon to effectively prepare bilingual teachers who can help Spanish-speaking students develop biliteracy skills in the early grades. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore in depth the lived experiences among Oregon bilingual reading specialists in relation to biliteracy. The research question was "How do bilingual reading specialists understand the phenomena of teaching biliteracy to bilingual students?" Three themes emerged from the interviews conducted: collaboration, language and caring. The insights gained from the lived experiences of bilingual reading specialists can allow teacher educators, school district personnel, and state policy makers to better understand the phenomenon of developing biliteracy and change the way we prepare bilingual teachers in Oregon regarding biliteracy pedagogy. Recommendations are offered for stakeholders, such as the need to include courses in biliteracy as part of the initial teaching license, deliver courses in Spanish, and provide practicum experiences that prepare bilingual teachers and reading specialists to collaborate with colleagues and families. Also, it is important that some of the strategies identified at the state level as part of the English Learner Strategic Plan specifically focus on biliteracy and dual language programs.