Literacy EAL – Reading Guide

Reading allows us to be active and think about what the person has written. We then have to decode the words and sentences to make sure that we have understood what the writer intended.

Straight away you can see that the EAL learner needs to have the following skills to:

  1. read the words correctly
  2. understand the construction of the sentence
  3. interpret what that string of words in that formation means to the rest of the population
  4. create an accurate picture of what that means where description is used to describe a situation, object or feeling

We are asking a lot of a monolingual but for a bilingual or multilingual child this becomes more difficult.

Add this to the four types of knowledge that the reader needs:

  1. Phonic  awareness (what each letter sounds like)
  2. Grammatical knowledge (Knowledge of sentence structure and the symbols we use to demonstrate this… such as !, ?, ” “)
  3. Knowledge of context (know about the culture, world especially of the area where they are learning, and topic)
  4. Word recognition and graphic knowledge (what the sounds look like when in written form)

In real life in the classroom this can be presented as:

  1. Difficulty decoding words
  2. Not understanding the vocabulary
  3. Confusion of words
  4. Not understanding something, for example, that the writing may be a joke or irony
  5. Having no background cultural information so it may be difficult to reach the true meaning easily.

Read for Meaning

In order to support this in the classroom if we can encourage reading for meaning that will encourage the EAL reader to take a risk by guessing a meaning to make accessing the text easier. If the book needs cultural background, input this knowledge beforehand as a precursor to allow even greater understanding when the reader eventually reads the book.


Support this further by pre-teaching any sentences with an idiom included such as if the book refers to a senior moment – pre teach the learner that this means a memory lapse or a momentary confusion in someone who is no longer young is a senior moment.

More idioms

lose heart

Make the grade

Step up a gear

It’s raining cats and dogs.

Finally look at the reading environment

  1. Have bilingual books in the target language to support both the learning language and continue to support their first language
  2. Have a resource box with texts at different challenge levels and interests
  3. Where possible increase the versions available by having a simplified version.
  4. Ensure access to dictionaries or translation software to develop their language acquisition.

Have you any good examples you would like to share with us?

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