Examining Relationships Among Dialect Variation, Literacy Skills, and School Context in First Grade PurposeThis study examined relationships between the use of nonmainstream American English dialects, literacy skills, and school environment among typically developing first graders (n = 617), of whom 48% were African American and 52% were White, in order to describe and better understand the difficulties many children from linguistically diverse backgrounds ... Article
Article  |   February 01, 2010
Examining Relationships Among Dialect Variation, Literacy Skills, and School Context in First Grade
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Nicole Patton Terry
    Georgia State University, Atlanta
  • Carol McDonald Connor
    Florida State University, Tallahassee
  • Shurita Thomas-Tate
    Florida State University, Tallahassee
  • Michael Love
    Florida A&M University, Tallahassee
  • Contact author: Nicole Patton Terry, Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education, Georgia State University, 30 Pryor Street, Suite 860, Atlanta, GA 30303. E-mail: npterry@gsu.edu.
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / School-Based Settings / Normal Language Processing / Language
Article   |   February 01, 2010
Examining Relationships Among Dialect Variation, Literacy Skills, and School Context in First Grade
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2010, Vol. 53, 126-145. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0058)
History: Received March 14, 2008 , Revised December 5, 2008 , Accepted April 10, 2009
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, February 2010, Vol. 53, 126-145. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2009/08-0058)
History: Received March 14, 2008; Revised December 5, 2008; Accepted April 10, 2009
Web of Science® Times Cited: 35

PurposeThis study examined relationships between the use of nonmainstream American English dialects, literacy skills, and school environment among typically developing first graders (n = 617), of whom 48% were African American and 52% were White, in order to describe and better understand the difficulties many children from linguistically diverse backgrounds experience while learning to read.

MethodUsing hierarchical linear modeling, the authors examined the linear and quadratic relationships between students' dialect variation (DVAR) and their vocabulary, phonological awareness, and word reading skills, taking into account school environment, specifically schoolwide socioeconomic status (SES).

ResultsThe relationships between DVAR and literacy outcomes depended on the outcome of interest and school SES. However, children’s race did not generally affect the trajectory or strength of the relationships between outcomes and dialect variation. For vocabulary and word reading, the association was nonlinear, that is, U-shaped, but this depended on school SES. For phonological awareness, a negative linear relationship was observed that did not depend on school SES.

ConclusionsThe results inform theories on the relationship between DVAR and literacy achievement and suggest a more complex explanation of how nonmainstream American English dialect use might influence how young children learn to read.

Acknowledgments
This study was funded by Grants R305H04013 and R305B070074 from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences, and by Grant R01HD48539 from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development. The opinions expressed are ours and do not represent views of the funding agencies. We thank the Individualizing Student Instruction Project team members, specifically our co-investigators, Frederick J. Morrison and Barry Fishman, at the University of Michigan, and project director, Phyllis Underwood, at Florida State University and the Florida Center for Reading Research. We appreciate the helpful feedback on early results for this article from Hollis Scarborough. Additionally, we thank the children, parents, teachers, and school administrators without whom this research would not have been possible.
Order a Subscription
Pay Per View
Entire Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research content & archive
24-hour access
This Article
24-hour access