The Importance of Bridging "Literacy Gaps" for English Learners

Education Professors Author “The Literacy Gaps”

Aug. 12, 2009 By Jenna Bartlo

The School of Education Dean June Hetzel and former Biola University professor Ivannia Soto-Hinman newly authored and published The Literacy Gaps, a guide for teachers to help bridge gaps for English language learners and Standard English learners. The book promises to build bridges of support so English language learners and Standard English learners can learn alongside their peers.

“Ivannia and I wrote this text purposely for the secular marketplace as we believe Christians must go shoulder-to-shoulder in the secular arena, enhancing educational practice for all children and particularly for children whose background language is not English or is non-Standard English,” said Hetzel.

Currently, there is a large achievement gap between these two groups and their native English counterparts, according to Soto-Hinman, and teachers are under great pressure to close this gap. 

Soto-Hinman and Hetzel wrote this comprehensive, research-based guide as a way to provide teachers with strategies, examples and tools to address the literacy gaps English language learner students face through texts, teachers and their peers.

As a former English language learner whose parents emigrated to the United States from Costa Rica, Soto-Hinman believes as society continues to become more diverse, school systems must learn to meet the individual needs of a variety of students, making the issue personal and significant to her.

The Literacy Gaps will help with the training that is needed for teachers to enter the field and begin working with these groups of students.

According to Kristina Anstrom, senior research scientist for The George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education, The Literacy Gaps is a practical and useful guide for teachers.

“The concepts of gaps and bridges are clearly articulated up front and provide a well-structure theme that unites the various parts of the text,” said Anstrom. “The use of this structure provides a logical and coherent mechanism for providing a complete picture of the problem—the literacy gap between ELs and native speakers—and a means for addressing this problem.”

The book was published by Corwin books available August 2009 and can be purchased through

Ivannia Soto-Hinman specializes in language acquisition, systemic reform for English language learners (ELLs), secondary literacy and urban education. Soto-Hinman currently holds the position of associate professor of education at Whittier College and also works at Stanford University on a grant that assists in redesigning comprehensive high schools into small and learning communities.

June Hetzel specializes in literacy, curriculum development and homeschooling research. She began serving as Dean of the School of Education at Biola University in 2008, formerly she served as chair.

Written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. Jenna can be reached at (562) 777-4061 or through email at

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