Federal Law and Regulations

Supporting Dual Language Learners in Early Learning Settings

by Ernie Melcher

The White House is announcing a new Federal policy statement from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education on better supporting our country’s youngest dual language learners (DLLs) in early childhood programs.

Data indicate that about one in five school-aged children speak a language other than English at home, a figure that has more than doubled in the past few decades. Estimates suggest that this number may be even higher for learners under the age of six; for example, nearly a third of children in Head Start programs are DLLs. Research with young DLLs clearly reflects that children’s bilingual skill development promotes overall language development and should be encouraged.
The statement includes comprehensive policy recommendations to States and to early childhood programs. It also recommends that States and local communities work together to ensure that all early childhood programs are welcoming and linguistically accessible to families of DLLs, foster children’s emerging bilingualism and learning more broadly, and support the early childhood workforce in building their capacity to stimulate the learning of DLLs.
The Department of Health and Human Services also announced the release of a new DLL Electronic Toolkit for Programs, Early Educators, Child Care Providers, and Families. The new DLL Toolkit includes free resources on supporting the learning and development- including dual language development – of DLLs at home, in early learning settings, and in the community. The DLL toolkit will be available at no cost to all early childhood programs, including all Head Start programs, which serve more than 300,000 DLLs every day. The toolkit will also be disseminated to home visitors in all 50 States supported by the Maternal Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, and the families they serve.
The full press release is available at http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-supporting-dual-language-learners-early-learning-settings

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