Frequently Asked Questions


English Language Learners in the United States

There are currently 5.3 million English learners enrolled in US K-12 schools, comprising 10.7 percent of total student enrollment.

While the vast majority of English learners are Spanish speakers, the linguistic make-up of the total English learner population is highly diverse and varies by region. The US Census lists 325 languages spoken in homes across the United States.

Most English learners are not immigrants. More than 75 percent of ELLs in grades K-5 are second-or third-generation Americans.

Many English learners struggle academically, have poor educational outcomes, and never reach the levels of English proficiency needed for participation and success.

Many English learners struggle for years to become proficient in English and become “long-term English learners,” a group that is particularly vulnerable.

Most ELL students are from low-income families. The vast majority of ELLs are from families that are struggling economically and have parents with disproportionately low schooling levels. In every state, nearly 60 percent of ELLs live in families whose income falls below 185 percent of the federal poverty line.

Source: Educating English Language Learners, Grantmaking Strategies for Closing America’s Other Achievement Gap, April 2013


What is the LiteracyCenter.Net?

The LiteracyCenter.Net is an open and free network where parents and teachers can find professionally-designed education material to share with preschool-age children. Initially funded by a U.S. Department of Education Small Business Innovation Research contract, our website was designed to meet the needs of children who were at risk of not learning to read.

Today, the Literacy Center Education Network brings together the best and the brightest professionals in an effort to find answers to the following questions:

  • How can we use evolving technology to help emergent readers?
  • At what point in their development should children be systematically introduced to second or other languages?
  • What is the relationship between early second language acquisition and the study of music, math, and science?
  • Why are children in some countries excelling at reading, math, and science while students in the USA lag behind?
  • How can we help teachers meet Common Core State Standards (CCSS) without harming the most vulnerable children?
  • Can we help Dual and English language learners become fluent in English without losing their home languages?

Why are there no characters at the LiteracyCenter.Net?

Learning how an alphabet looks, sounds, and performs in words is a big job for small children. Our research has found that characters, which are generally larger than the actual subject matter and often bouncing around and talking, can confuse the learning environment. Children who have trouble recognizing letters report that they have no trouble remembering how characters look, sound, and behave. This is basically because most characters are actually branded products such as Big Bird, Blues Clues, Barney, Thomas the Train, etc. Large corporations have invested in branding their “properties” through something called “product placement” which means they place products in multiple environments to improve brand recognition. Small children in the United States are exposed to branded characters throughout the day. When they find these loved characters in educational environments, their attention is naturally more drawn to the character more than the subject matter.

At the LiteracyCenter.Net, we are working to provide a direct link between children and developmentally appropriate education material. We rely on parent and teacher feedback to make certain we are hitting the mark. As part of this process, we have chosen not to confuse the learning environment with characters. Based upon the feedback we have received, it appears that this choice is helping children learn to read more quickly. Many report that children who play at the LiteracyCenter.Net begin to think that letters, colors, numbers, and words are as fun and engaging as branded characters.

At the LiteracyCenter.Net you have letter names, not letter sounds. At my child’s school they begin by introducing letter sounds. Is this confusing?

The LiteracyCenter.Net is designed for preschool-age children. We encourage parents to introduce home language basics before Kindergarten. Because Dual and English language learners are trying to master more than one phonological system, many teachers report they prefer our more traditional approach to letter recognition. Once a child knows letters, numbers, colors, and shapes in their home language, they can more quickly map these to a second language. Feel free to visit our Facebook page, to read the most recent research on second language acquisition for young children. Education is a team sport so feel free to share the new ideas with your Kindergarten teacher.

Should children use headphones?

This is a difficult question. At the LiteracyCenter.Net, we promote active learning. We also stress concentration. In certain environments, children may need to have headphones to be able to concentrate on the material at hand. In other environments, teachers might allow one student to teach other students. (This is a great method because it enables children to move freely and dance as they learn.) In circumstances where it has been determined that there is a need, the LiteracyCenter.Net design team would suggest that parents and teachers consult medical professionals before using headphones or any other head-mounted device on young children. Your school or family physician should be able to provide guidelines for the appropriate weight of devices before you purchase them. Once in use, guidelines for volume should be strictly adhered to.

Do the Literacy Center interactive Play and Learn activities work on iPads?

The iPad does not support Flash so you will not be able to use the interactive exercises. You will not be able to use the interactive section on any device that does not support Flash. Visit the Adobe website to find out which devices are supported and to see if you can download a free Flash player for your mobile device.