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Strength in Diversity
A Positive Approach to Teaching Dual-Language Learners in Early Childhood

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Strength in Diversity
A Positive Approach to Teaching Dual-Language Learners in Early Childhood



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In the United States, the number of children who come from homes where they speak languages other than English is rising. Despite the common misperception that dual language learners are slower learners or have special needs, research shows that they have better executive function and cognitive skills. Their brains are doing double duty!

Strength in Diversity: A Positive Approach to Teaching Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood offers teachers context, practical advice, and strategies to help young dual language learners thrive. Teaching dual language learners isn’t just about classroom methods. It’s about empathy, perspective, patience, and high expectations. Learn:

  • Who young dual language learners are
  • The basics of second-language acquisition
  • Effective teaching strategies and principles of instruction
  • How to honor a home language as you support English learning
  • Ways to engage the families of dual language learners
Lea Ann Christenson, PhD

Lea Ann Christenson, PhD, is an associate professor in the department of early childhood education at Towson State University. She earned her PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University...

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“Strength in Diversity is a powerful and dynamic reader that early childhood educators can keep on their shelves for continued reference. Weaving from theory to practice and out into practical applications of our work with dual language learning children and families, Christenson asks us to be mindful of generalizations, to think to benefits of, and strengths in, learning multiple languages, and to understand and apply our theories. Sprinkled with easy-to-comprehend stories that build on the big concepts presented, this book turns us toward processes of building relationships—connecting with families and through home cultures, considering our biases, developing empathy, encouraging community building, and so on. The final chapter imagines us in a kindergarten classroom, offering teaching and learning landscapes rich in dual language learning. This book is a must read and one to hold onto as a reminder of our compassion in our work with young children and their families!”

Will Parnell
President NAECTE

“Strength in Diversity: A Positive Approach to Teaching Dual-Language Learners by Lea Ann Christenson, PhD, is the perfect book to guide teachers, administrators, and classroom helpers in their work with young children and their families. Easy to read and highly accessible, the book offers insight into how dual-language learners are assets to our schools and communities. Teachers will gain understanding of pertinent terms used in the field, as well as what kinds of activities can best help their students. Perhaps most important, Dr. Christenson shares demographics that break down preconceived notions and guide the reader to reflection and understanding. Parents, teachers, and even experienced administrators will appreciate the refresher course on early childhood development theories. The last chapter highlights a unit study for a kindergarten class. Teachers will see some of their own strategies highlighted here and learn what to emphasize and expand upon for their dual-language learners. I recommend this book for all of you creative, empathetic, and supportive teachers and caregivers who are looking for a boost. It will renew your passion and get you back in the classroom with energy and tools to succeed.”

Jenny James
Director, First Lutheran Preschool

“In this readable, understandable book, Dr. Lea Ann Christenson dispels some common myths around teaching young dual-language learners and, more broadly, around the presence of students learning English in our school systems. Dr. Christenson emphasizes the many strengths and contributions these students often bring to classrooms and provides teachers with background information, introductions to important theories and concepts, and practical tips geared to help them support their young dual language learners. This book is especially noteworthy for its careful attention to child development and language-related theories, making complex ideas accessible and distilling some of the key knowledge that is most important for teachers beginning to work with linguistically diverse students. Dr. Christenson provides a number of features that are especially valuable for busy teachers, preservice teachers, other school personnel or even casual readers. These include case studies, glossaries, and numerous visual and organizational features to support comprehension and application. This is a valuable book for preservice and inservice educators, as well as the teacher preparation community; I look forward to using it with my own preservice teachers in the future!”

Patricia Rice Doran
Associate Professor of Special Education, Towson University

“This book provides a clear overview of demographics, cultures, and theories in relation to Dual Language Learners (DLLs). It then dives into the more practical side, putting theory into practice. The entire book is written in a user-friendly engaging way that is easy to follow along, making for a quick read that teachers can digest and apply the information into their classrooms “tomorrow.” Teachers in early childhood settings could benefit from the information in this book because it not only provides the necessary background, but also discusses how to work with families and how to plan classroom instruction. The unit planning guide at the end of the book also helps teachers lay out their content, for example how to address vocabulary, visuals, and modeling, which DLLs can benefit from to succeed. I recommend this book for teachers, administrators, faculty, and staff interested in learning practical ways to develop or review early childhood classroom instruction that is evidence-based and meets the needs of DLLs. ”

Gilda Martinez-Alba
Assistant Dean, College of Education, Towson University

“I teach an early education and care course for undergraduate preservice teachers on language development and emergent literacy. A significant percentage of this course is devoted to how to effectively work with young Dual Language Learners (DLL) and partner with their families. Strength in Diversity: A Positive Approach to Teaching Dual Language Learners is a valuable resource for preservice teachers, inservice teachers, and early childhood teacher educators. This book provides practical, strength-focused, and research-based instructional strategies for authentically including DLL children in all aspects of the early childhood curriculum. The teacher scenarios were effective in connecting research to practice by way of the day-to-day, lived experiences of early childhood teachers and the DLL children in their classrooms.”

Kevin McGowan
Assistant Professor, Bridgewater State University

“The value of early childhood is how it affirms the humanity and voice of every child and their families and communities. Lea Ann Christenson’s book, Strength in Diversity: A Positive Approach to Teaching Dual-Language Learners in Early Childhood, comes at a time when the world is being reminded that not all people have the same access to freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Through this book, she asks readers to challenge what they know and think, and who they are in order to better understand the lives and lived experiences of dual language learners (DLLs). She implores educators to see who DLLs are, which includes them being American and deserving the full right to meet their potential! Through Strength in Diversity, Dr. Christenson challenges the myths and deficit views about DLLs especially those with roots in Asia, African, Central America, and Mexico. DLLs bring skills, talents, and assets that can create effective teachers and effective early childhood learning environments. Rather than the fear and anxiety that many early childhood educators may feel when it concerns being able to teach DLLs, she implores us to lean into the opportunities that linguistically diverse children bring to the learning environment. She provides practical and accessible tools and strategies for educators to leverage DLLs’ talents and assets; hint: these are great for all children. Languages that children bring to the learning environment should not be a tool for exclusion and oppression but rather an opportunity to strengthen relationships, innovation, and cognition.”

Iheoma U. Iruka, PhD
HighScope Educational Research Foundation

“This book is provides research-based, classroom tested strategies to support young speakers of other languages and their families. The books is grounded in the latest language acquisition and early childhood learning and development research so that what we know about how children learn language is at the core of the book. At the same time a real care for children, families, and teachers in actual classrooms and a passion for dual language learners' growth runs through the text. The unique combination of theory and child-centered, strengths-based practice in the book will support early childhood teachers to fill their toolboxes with needed strategies and skills. This is a practical and engaging text that is a must read for early childhood teachers, administrators, or teacher candidates to support them as teachers of language learners. The conversational tone of the text and concrete examples such as from Ms. Emily's classroom makes it an ideal tool to use for in-service or pre-service teacher professional development to answer the call for early childhood educators to celebrate and support diverse learners. ”

Leah Muccio
Associate Professor University of Hawaii at Manoa

“As stated in the book, "All children deserve a classroom where they feel safe and secure and free to learn and grow." Strength in Diversity illustrates ways to create classroom environments that support the success of dual language learners. The book is a good resource for early childhood educators seeking an introduction to working with dual language learners and their families. It offers practical strategies for providing developmentally appropriate instruction to dual language learners while scaffolding their language development. The use of vignettes and classroom examples will help readers generate ideas for how to enhance their practice. ”

Lorena Mancilla, PhD
Director of WIDA Early Years, WIDA at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research