Date: 4 April 2014
Special issue in the European Journal of Applied Linguistics (EuJAL) on "Language at preschool in Europe: Early years professionals in the spotlight" by guest editors Marije Michel (Lancaster University) and Folkert Kuiken (University of Amsterdam)
Over the past few decades early years education throughout Europe has experienced many changes due to higher numbers of children attending centres for early childhood education and care (ECEC), a growing linguistic and cultural diversity in society and a shift from care to education with the focus on preparing children for entry to primary school. These changes have brought with them an expectation from policy makers, researchers and parents for better ECEC. Language support for children in need is often named as one of the key aspects of high-quality childcare because of its importance in successful entry to and progression within the future educational career of a child. However, rather little is known about how early years professionals meet the linguistic demands of twenty-first century multilingual Europe.
This special issue in the new European Journal of Applied Linguistics (EuJAL) with guest-editors Marije Michel (Lancaster University) and Folkert Kuiken (University of Amsterdam)tries to fill this gap.
It focuses on language development during early childhood in Europe by highlighting the institutionalized support children need and should receive in early years education and care. Special attention is given to the competences, knowledge, beliefs, and skills as well as the needs of early years professionals with regard to foster young children's language acquisition. The emphasis lies on the linguistic (and socio-cultural) challenges child caregivers are faced with -especially in multilingual urban contexts. The issue brings together scholars from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK who investigated early childhood educators'ways of dealing with language and the related needs of the children they care for in their daily work.In response to needs expressed by policy makers or early years professionals themselves and the gaps assessed by standardized tests or in-depth qualitative analyses, the contributions present examples of good practice and details of local initiatives and national programmes to provide additional training and/or develop material for language support in ECEC.
This volume does not provide a representative country-specific overview of language support in European ECEC, but rather we paint a picture showing the diversity that exists with regard to (a) policy and institutionalised measures for language support in ECEC; (b) expectations and training of early years professionals for assisting children with linguistic needs; and (c) ways to perform research in this area. What unifies the contributions is their attention to the important role ECEC staff play for the language development of the children they take care of -and especially of those who need language support.As such, the volume presents a journey through early years education in five countries with a variety of practical solutions to the unified challenges in ECEC. It highlights the role of early years professionals who -with growing numbers of children attending early childhood education bringing diverse individual needs and backgrounds to the ECEC institution - deserve to be trained in meeting the requirements of the needs in 21stcentury super-diverse European society.
Associated staff: Marije Michel
Associated departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language
Keywords: Children, Early years education, Language, Linguistics