Same or Different: How Bilingual Readers Can Help Us Understand Bidialectal Readers

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Abstract

Reading achievement gaps are prominent in U.S. schools, most notably when comparing the performance of African American and Latino/Hispanic children to their White peers. Among the many reasons offered to explain and address these achievement gaps, language differences and language proficiency are primary considerations because many African American children are bidialectal and many Latino/Hispanic children are bilingual. A review of research findings on the relations between language and reading development and performance in these two distinct student populations suggests that bidialectalism and bilingualism are not risks to be remedied. Rather, they are unique language experiences that have different implications for children's English language knowledge and, therefore, reading development and achievement. Moreover, there is evidence that, when provided with rich and robust language interactions, bidialectalism and bilingualism can be leveraged as strengths to support literacy learning.

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