Vol. 5. No. 1 R-13 April 2001
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Reading and Writing in More Than One Language: Lessons for Teachers

Elizabeth Franklin (Ed.) (1999)
Arlington, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.
Pp. viii + 149
ISBN 0-939-791-76-5 (paper)
US $19.95 ($14.95 members)


This book gives us examples of practice and practical classroom suggestions, while at the same time helping us think about, reflect on, and discuss the topics raised. The book is directed to mainstream teachers in elementary and secondary classrooms who work with non-native English speaking students. Nonetheless, Reading and Writing in More Than One Language is perfectly appropriate for any teacher facing a similar situation in another country with a different language setting.


Reading and Writing in More Than One Language is a compilation of classroom experiences in teaching bilingual students how to read and write. A different author writes each chapter, and all of them deal with some aspect related to teaching reading and/or writing in situations where one or more of the students speak languages other than English and are actually learning in English. Some of the chapters offer descriptions of classroom situations, while others suggest activities and yet others tell us about experiences with individual students.

In chapter 1, Yvonne and David Freeman offer us their view on the type of challenges that secondary learners face. Theory and practice are blended in this chapter.

In chapter 2, Carole Urzúa gives her views on how to plan a classroom environment that will nourish literacy.

In chapter 3, Katharine Davies Samway and Carlyn Syvanen explain to us the process of cross-age reading sessions in two different contexts and the effect a cross-age literacy experience has on older students.

In chapter 4, Kathryn Z. Weed and Monica A. Ford examine a multilevel multilingual situation and explain how to use a variety of expressive and communicative modes to help students achieve literacy.

In chapter 5, Sarah Hudelson shows the importance of bringing assessment of children's learning into the teaching process. [-1-]

In chapter 6, Elizabeth Franklin (also editor of the book) reports on a study of the process of writing of two boys and draws conclusions on how to best teach non-native English speakers how to write.

In chapter 7, Mary Maguire examines a student's process of acquiring literacy in four languages at the same time. She explains why biliteracy, or rather multiliteracy, must be thought of as strongly influenced by cultural aspects and social interactions.

The situations described take place in mainstream classrooms at various school levels; they include examples of writing, artwork, and conversation extracts that illustrate the work that has been carried on. In every case, the procedures draw from an attitude of respect and value of the students' cultural heritage. The whole book stands for enhancing the understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity.

All the chapters present a similar structure: an introduction to the situation described, examples, and a conclusion, with suggestions for teachers as well as a bibliography and suggestions for further reading. For example, in chapter 5 we read about the learning process of a child, Juanita, from first to third grade. Sarah Hudelson explains the development of Juanita's reading ability and shows us the value of appreciating learners as human beings. At the end of the chapter, Hudelson gives teachers four valuable suggestions: Have a wide range of books in your classroom; provide time for children's responses; examine other teachers' ways of doing things, and always set aside time for observing your students.


Immigrant students are quite often forced into a new linguistic and cultural system by having them not only forget, but sometimes even despise, their original language and culture. Reading and Writing in More Than One Language is an effective report of several teachers' experiences and ideas and provides us with a wider view of the current situation in language teaching. Much harm has been done and continues to be done to children who have to learn in a language other than their own. Bilingual situations pose many difficulties both for teachers and students. This book is written in a manner that makes you feel that, in spite of this situation, there is a way to achieve the goal of teaching children how to read and write not only without harming anyone, but also enriching everybody in the process.


Reading and Writing in More Than One Language provides suggestions to teachers and parents, as well as administrators. I recommend the book to all those involved in the process of teaching in multicultural classrooms, even if they don't have to teach reading and writing.

Carmen Pinilla Padilla
Centro de Formación, Innovación y Recursos Educativos de Godella, Spain

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