6. Teachers model and explain text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections for their students.
As with most students, when ELLs can see connections between reading and their own lives, their reading comprehension and engagement increase. However, it can be difficult for ELLs to find such connections if most books and materials represent mainstream culture. Students who rarely find reflections of their own faces, lives, or histories in their books may begin to feel alienated from those books and from school.
While teachers help students identify with universal themes in books, such as rejection in The Ugly Duckling, they also make sure to study some books that reflect diverse experiences and cultural backgrounds. By studying fiction and nonfiction narratives that reflect experiences of ethnic communities, such as Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year (Waters, Slovenz-Low, & Cooper, 1991) and My Little Island (Lessac, 1995), ELLs see that others share their experiences of having relatives and roots elsewhere. Effective teachers hold discussions that draw out the students' culturally specific relationships to such texts.
Teachers say things like:
Have any of you ever seen the New Year's Parade in Chinatown?
Have any of you been to a place that looks like the island in the picture?
It is also important to highlight the broader connections that other students can make.
Effective teachers say things like:
Have you ever been in a show or an important parade?
How did you feel?
Do you have relatives who live far away?
In a similar vein, informational texts on familiar subjects, such as food in Everyone Eats Rice (Powell, 1997), build upon students' experiences and reduce any feelings of marginalization.