A child who is bilingual uses two or more languages in their everyday life (Wiles, as cited by Smyth, 2003). Literacy acquisition is much more than being able to read and write, it is also about the skills that are gained that enable one to read and write. For example, a bilingual child whose home language is Polish is learning English, and therefore learning to read English. Through his literacy acquisition, the focus would not be on the language being learnt but on the reading and the cognitive skills required to do so (Bialystok, 2002).
Krashen (2000) maintains that educating children in their first language can aid their acquisition of their second language. When education programmes have the following three components they are
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If a bilingual child is to flourish in the classroom, with their knowledge of the English language being extended, then they need the experiences of hearing and using language with a vast range of purposes (Smyth, 2003). In order to wholly participate across the curriculum, bilingual pupils need to acquire ‘cognitive academic language proficiency’ (CALP) (Cummins, 1979). These skills are necessary throughout the curriculum and opportunities to advance within and progress these skill must be given to bilingual pupils. Equally important is the role of the teacher to facilitate this learning by modelling these types of language (Smyth, 2003; Scottish Governmen, n.d.).
The teacher is essential in the role of supporting literacy acquisition as they can put into effect successful learning contexts which language can be learned. Real life contexts across the curriculum for learning are seen as very beneficial to children, therefore literacy acquisition would also be beneficial in a real life situation where the levels of talk are promoted (Scottish Government, n.d.).
Thus it could be argued that the teacher and classroom environment are essential for bilingual learners’ literacy acquisition. When both nurture and value bilingualism, this allows children the opportunity to continue their literacy acquisition of their home language. The home - school link gap can be bridged by the