An academic group from the University of Glasgow, headed by Dr Evelyn Arizpe from the Department of

Curricular Studies, is working with children in a school in Govanhill, on the south side of the city.

Pupils from Holy Cross Primary School, where more than 50 students do not speak English as a first language, are joining peers in Australia, America and Spain in being taught the language using a technique using picture books.

Academics worked with the youngsters from May to June this year before leaving EAL teacher, Hagos Sinkie, to carry on the trial.

So far, he says, the technique is proving effective – and highly popular – with his young charges.

Mr Sinkie, who sought political asylum in Scotland from Ethiopia 20 years ago, said: “Because a child is from another country and does not speak English does not mean they are slow. Children who come from other countries already have language skills but it can be frustrating for them not to be able to answer questions or take part in classes when they would understand the lessons in their first language.

“Working with the picture books helps break down those barriers because children are already familiar with picture books and can understand them, no matter what their first language is.”

Pupils taking part in the Visual Journeys Project are given two picture books to study, Flotsam by David Wiesner and The Arrival by Shaun Tan, which are both composed entirely of illustrations.

Children are encouraged to talk about the pictures and create their own version of the story before drawing, writing or taking photographs of places they want to share with other pupils.

This wordless method of teaching language is designed to encourage creativity and curiosity while expanding vocabulary.

Dr Arizpe, who is originally from Mexico, said: “The books are very effective because they can be interpreted any way – there is no right or wrong.

“That helps cut down on the fear factor and makes children enthusiastic about learning so they pick up vocabulary without realising it.”

In Glasgow there are more than 10,500 children and young people who speak

English as an additional language – almost one in five.

A total of 110 different languages are spoken and four fifths of these youngsters need direct support from specialist EAL staff.

At Holy Cross pupils come from countries including Somalia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Mr Sinkie is hopeful that at the end of the year-long trial, backed by the UK Literacy Association, the picture book system will be rolled out to other schools following its success in Holy Cross.

He added: “The pupils absolutely love working with the picture books. It gives them an enthusiasm for English and an enthusiasm to learn.”