African American English–Speaking Students: An Examination of the Relationship Between Dialect Shifting and Reading Outcomes PurposeIn this study, the authors evaluated the contribution made by dialect shifting to reading achievement test scores of African American English (AAE)–speaking students when controlling for the effects of socioeconomic status (SES), general oral language abilities, and writing skills.MethodParticipants were 165 typically developing African American 1st through 5th graders. Half ... Article
Article  |   August 01, 2009
African American English–Speaking Students: An Examination of the Relationship Between Dialect Shifting and Reading Outcomes
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Holly K. Craig
    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Lingling Zhang
    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Stephanie L. Hensel
    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Erin J. Quinn
    University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Contact author: Stephanie L. Hensel, University of Michigan, University Center for the Development of Language and Literacy, 1111 East Catherine Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. E-mail: potters@umich.edu.
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / School-Based Settings / Language
Article   |   August 01, 2009
African American English–Speaking Students: An Examination of the Relationship Between Dialect Shifting and Reading Outcomes
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2009, Vol. 52, 839-855. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0056)
History: Received March 11, 2008 , Accepted November 11, 2008
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2009, Vol. 52, 839-855. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0056)
History: Received March 11, 2008; Accepted November 11, 2008
Web of Science® Times Cited: 36

PurposeIn this study, the authors evaluated the contribution made by dialect shifting to reading achievement test scores of African American English (AAE)–speaking students when controlling for the effects of socioeconomic status (SES), general oral language abilities, and writing skills.

MethodParticipants were 165 typically developing African American 1st through 5th graders. Half were male and half were female, one third were from low-SES homes, and two-thirds were from middle-SES homes. Dialect shifting away from AAE toward Standard American English (SAE) was determined by comparing AAE production rates during oral and written narratives. Structural equation modeling evaluated the relative contributions of AAE rates, SES, and general oral language and writing skills on standardized reading achievement scores.

ResultsAAE production rates were inversely related to reading achievement scores and decreased significantly between the oral and written narratives. Lower rates in writing predicted a substantial amount of the variance in reading scores, showing a significant direct effect and a significant indirect effect mediated by measures of oral language comprehension.

ConclusionThe findings support a dialect shifting–reading achievement hypothesis, which proposes that AAE-speaking students who learn to use SAE in literacy tasks will outperform their peers who do not make this linguistic adaptation.

Acknowledgments
This work was supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement Grant R305T990368. We thank the students, families, and school personnel who participated in this study.
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