How should we teach reading to English learners?

Many children enter school in California speaking languages other than English, and they learn to read at the same time that they are learning English.

As California aims to improve literacy instruction, it’s crucial to keep these students in mind.

Educators and experts delve into questions such as:

  • As California aims to improve how reading is taught, how can it ensure that the needs of English learners are not overlooked?
  • How do the needs of English learners differ from those of students whose first language is English?
  • How can teachers leverage the literacy skills students already have in other languages?

Read more about the roundtable.

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Ka Vang

Principal at Frank Sparkes Elementary | Winton School District

Ka Vang is the principal of Frank Sparkes Elementary in Winton School District, a school that stands out for the relatively large number of English learners who read and write at grade level by third grade. Before becoming a principal, she was a teacher and a literacy coach. She grew up speaking Hmong at home and learned English at school.

Sonia Águila

Second grade teacher at Canalino Elementary | Carpinteria Unified

Sonia Águila was named the 2023 National Bilingual Teacher of the Year by the National Association of Bilingual Education. She has been teaching for 25 years and is currently a 2nd grade dual language immersion teacher at Canalino Elementary School and the dual language immersion chairperson for Carpinteria Unified School District.

She grew up in a small town near Guadalajara, Mexico and came to California at age 11, learning English in middle and high school. Sonia also hosts a bilingual children’s radio program, Festival Infantil.

Pedro Figueroa

Bilingual kindergarten teacher at Potrero Elementary School | Mountain Empire Unified

Pedro Figueroa is a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Potrero Elementary School in Mountain Empire Unified School District in rural San Diego county. He has been an elementary school teacher for 33 years, with 20 years of experience in special education. His school is one of the 70 schools statewide receiving literacy training and support from the Early Literacy Support Block Grant Program.

Becky Sullivan

Director, K-12 English Language Arts Curriculum & Instruction | Sacramento County Office of Education

Becky Sullivan has been an educator for over 30 years. She has supported schools and LEAs at the state, district, and site levels. As Director of K-12 English Language Arts at the Sacramento County Office of Education, she is currently the Project Lead for the Expert Lead in Literacy Grant, supporting the Early Literacy Support Block Grant LEAs/sites. Her work within California’s System of Support includes hosting a statewide

Early Literacy PLN and Elementary Literacy Conference and supporting local districts in Differentiated Assistance. She has a BA in Spanish from UCLA and a MA in Educational Administration. Becky has taught at the elementary and university levels and holds a Reading & Language Arts Specialist Credential. Becky served as a member of the Curriculum Commission (an advisory body to the State Board of Education), co-chair of the ELA/ELD Framework Development Committee, and was a member of the State Literacy Team. This past year, Becky facilitated a panel at The Reading League Summit on Effective Policy for All Learners and presented at the Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement in Education.

Martha I. Martinez

Senior Director of Research & Evaluation | Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL)

Dr. Martha I. Martinez has over 20 years experience researching, overseeing and supporting policies and programs designed to improve educational outcomes for underserved students. Currently, she is the Senior Director of Research and Evaluation for Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the educational experiences and outcomes of dual language learners (DLLs) and English Learners (ELs). At SEAL, Dr. Martinez oversees the organization’s research agenda, including supporting and directing evaluations of SEAL’s professional development in PK-6 grade school settings on teacher practice, student outcomes, and school systems. Prior to joining SEAL, Dr. Martinez worked at the Oregon Department of Education where she played a key role in the development of ELPA21, oversaw the state’s dual language grant program, and served as co-Principal Investigator on two Research-Practice Partnerships focused on Oregon’s ELs. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Methodology, Policy and Leadership from the University of Oregon.

Zaidee Stavely

Panel moderator; Reporter | EdSource

Zaidee Stavely covers immigration and education for EdSource and hosts the weekly podcast, Education Beat. She is a bilingual print and radio reporter who has worked in Mexico and the U.S. She has covered education, immigration, environmental justice and traditional arts for KQED, Radio Bilingüe, and Public Radio International’s “The World,” among other outlets.

Zaidee has won numerous awards for her journalism, including an Emmy, a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, an Excellence in Journalism Award from SPJ Northern California, and the Rubén Salazar Award from CCCNMA: Latino Journalists of California. She grew up in rural Mendocino County, where both her parents taught in public one-room schoolhouses. She has a Master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in Latin American and Latino Studies and Community Studies from UC Santa Cruz. She lives in Oakland with her husband and two children.

Anne Vasquez

CEO | EdSource

Anne Vasquez took the helm as EdSource’s executive director in May 2021. Previously, she served as director of content and strategic initiatives at EdSource. In that role, she helped shape editorial strategy, grow partnerships and expand the organization’s footprint throughout California. Prior to joining EdSource, Anne was an executive at Tribune Publishing, where she most recently served as senior vice president of strategic initiatives and chief digital officer. She previously was the managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Vasquez began her career at the Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News, where she was an education reporter and later an editor.