7About 90 million people who don’t read well enough to engage fully in societymanage their own healthcarehold adequately-paying jobshelp educate their own childrenand so onNational Assessment of Adult Literacy (2003)
82011(downloadable from National Academies)(I am one of multiple authors)
9Why? Many reasons. What are the major ones? Ones about which we could do something.Here are some possibilities.
101. Blame EnglishEnglish spelling is strange. Hard to learn.
11OECD PISA Reading Results 2009 5. Singapore6. Canada7. New Zealand9. Australia17. United States
12Still, people think learning to read English IS hard. Many alphabets: one letter, one soundNot englishEnglish is an outlier even compared to other alphabets.Which have more predictable spelling-sound mappings.
14Italian Spanish German French Finnish Serbian Turkish others Handbook of Orthography and Literacy, Joshi & Aron (Eds.), Erlbaum 2006
15Is this true? In these studies, “learning to read” = read words (and nonwords) aloudBut reading aloud ≠ reading (comprehension)
16I proved this some years ago. My Bar MitzvahMy pronunciation was flawless. I didn’t understand a word I was saying. Hebrew (with vowels) is shallow.
17Bar Mitzvah Languages Shallow: can be read without comprehension Hebrew (vowelled)ItalianWelshFinnish many others.It is also possible to mispronounce words and still know what they meanThat’s why learning to read in Albanian is easy.Non-oral Deaf individuals who read English;Words one knows but can’t pronounce correctly.So reading aloud is not a very good index of “reading”
18Languages and writing systems: There are tradeoffs Deeper simpler morphologyShallower more complex morphology“Grapholinguistic Equilibrium Hypothesis” (Seidenberg, 2011;downloadable fromLanguages get the writing systems they deserveSerbo-Croatian:couldn’t be like EnglishEnglish: couldn’t be like Serbo-CroatianThe “outlier” is actually Italian.
192. How reading is taught NRC report on adult literacy: teaching adults to read is hardavailable methods are not effectiveAlternative:do a better job in the first place?
20Barriers What teachers are taught about reading For some children, what happens in classroom doesn’t matter.For most children, it definitely does.
21BarriersFailures to identify, help children with reading/language/learning disabilitiesNo routine pediatric or educational screening for dyslexia“they’ll catch up”Some significant percentage of those 90 million low-literacy adults are undiagnosed, untreated dyslexics
22We could do better.Change is needed, on the education side especially.Very hard to achieve.
24Reading, math, other areas Seen in The "achievement gap" refers to disparities in academic performance between groups of students.Minority groupsAfrican AmericanHispanicNative AmericanIncome groupsReading, math, other areasSeen ingrades, standardized-test scores, course selection, dropout rates, and college-completion rates.Has been going for a long timeHas not succumbed to government efforts dating from War on Poverty (1960s) to NCLB (2000s)
25For today, I will mostly focus on white-black gap. Why? large populationextensive researchsocietal concerndifferent groups have different circumstancesAn important issueA complex issueA sensitive issue30 minutes?
29(Does it make sense to even try?) How to identify causes?(Does it make sense to even try?)Other measures yield similar picture.
30Maybe it is all poverty Poverty is associated with Higher infant mortality rateAtypical brain developmentShorter life spanWorse health and health careHigher crime ratesLower educational achievementHigher dropout ratesPoorer schools with less experienced teachersPoor Reading!!
31Economists’ EvidenceData: Early Childhood Longitudinal Study20,000 childrenInterview data, 4 times during K and 1st gradeMany kinds of data about child, familyBlack-white differences on reading readiness measuresTheir finding: a small number of measures account for gap at the start of kindergarten.
32The factors are: Socioeconomic status Number of children’s books in homeAge at kindergarten (months)Birth weightAge of mother at time of first birthWIC (welfare) participantIf you eliminate effects of these factors, you eliminate the b-w difference on achievement tests at start of schoolingSES compositve measure: parental education, parental occupational status, and household in- come.What do these factors mean? What are the causal mechanisms? All poverty-related.
33Fourth gradeAlso seen in the NAEP dataEighth grade
34There is an effect of poverty on scores. Achievement gap not limited to low=income individualsBut the gap is pretty consistent across groups.
35Economists againThe reading test includes questions designed to measure basic skills (print familiarity, letter recognition, beginning and ending sounds, rhyming sounds, and word recognition), vocabulary and comprehension, listening and reading comprehension, knowledge of the alphabet, phonetics, and so on.
37Earlier paper: 6 factors account for gap at start of kindergarten. Later paper: the gap gets larger over first 3 years of schooling.The 6 factors do not account for this decline.Nor do any others they could find in the data set.The reading test includes questions designed to measure basic skills (print familiarity, letter recognition, beginning and ending sounds, rhyming sounds, and word recognition), vocabulary and comprehension, listening and reading comprehension, knowledge of the alphabet, phonetics, and so on.
38Something else is going on. It contributes to increasing deficit in K-3It affects kids from different SESIt doesn’t show up in the econometric analysesWhat is it?
39LanguageECLS data set includes information about other languages spoken in home.But not characteristics of spoken languageWhich vary greatly.For example: vocabulary size (Risley & Hart, and others)lexical quality (Perfetti)
40What about dialect? Languages have dialects. In the US, main distinction between“Standard” or “Mainstream” American EnglishAfrican American Vernacular English/AAEECLS doesn’t track dialect use
41African American English Spoken by most African Americans, regardless of SES1970s: Research by Labov and then many others documenting properties of AAEPlaced it in a broader linguistic contextDialect variation is not specific to English or to African Americans.About the same time that Stokoe and then Klima/Bellugi began characterizing properties of ASL.Had similar impact, in terms of validation
42AAE and SAE overlap but also differ PhonologyMorphologySyntaxDiscourse conventionsAmong others
43The depth of immersion in AAE varies Washington-Craig: “dialect density”proportion of utterances that exhibit AAE featuresFamiliarity with standard dialect variesAs does degree of code switching
44Could dialect differences have an impact on learning to read?
45Labov recognized potential impact of these various differences on school achievement, particularly readingDialect mismatch effectsWhy hasn’t more attention been paid?
46Extent of impact under-recognized It’s like global warming isn’t on the table anymore either. But, it’s still there.
47Attention diverted elsewhere Early empirical studies reported non effectsSocio-cultural controversiesabout intrinsic value, statusEmphasis on validity of dialect overshadowed investigation of impact in the educational contextBut, it’s like global warming. It’s not in on the table for discussion, but it hasn’t gone away
48Our thinkingNeed to establish more direct links between dialect and specific aspects of learning to readDrawing on reading research, theoryAnd relevant research on language learning, plasticity, age-related changesJust like labov’s original research situated AA dialect in a broader linguistic context, we want to situate the impact on learning to read in the broader cognitive science/neuroscience context.
49Learning spelling-sound relations Child learns to relate spellings to words in spoken vocabularyWhat “phonics” is forStrongly related to early reading achievementDifficult for many childrenImpaired in dyslexiaDownstream effects on comprehensionReviews: NRP, Snow “Preventing reading difficulties”
50Pronunciations in AAE and SAE Many words pronounced the same (at phonemic level)Many words pronounced differentlyPercentage varies with dialect density.Estimates: 30% and higher
51Major Differences in Pronunciation Many others.Craig & Washington, 20041. Postvocalic consonant reductionMORE /mo/2. Substitutions for /th/WITH /wif/3. Devoicing final consonantsHIS /hiss/4. Consonant cluster reductionWORLD / werl /5. Consonant transpositionASK /aks /We’re trying to imagine what impact this might have on a beginning reader.GOLD, FLOOR, and LOW rhyme in AAE
52SAE learner’s task AAE learner’s task Learn to map spellings onto existing pronunciationsAAE learner’s taskLearn correspondences between SAE-AAE pronunciationsLearn to map spellings onto SAE pronunciations
53Teacher: G-O-L-D, that’s “gold” [child searches spoken language vocabulary for “gold”]Child: Ohhh, “gole”
54The main point AAE learner’s task is more complex But children are assessed against same achievement milestonesNot a problem with the dialectNot a problem with dialect usersA problem with the situationSome of the achievement gap is built in.Other factors aside
55Our research Behavioral experiments Computational models Pronouncing words aloudChildren and adultsComputational modelsEffects experiential differencesEntrenchment effectsWays to overcome them
56Behavioral experiments African American children, adultsRead words aloudContrastive: different pronunciationsboundoldtoastNon-contrastive: same pronunciationbrushairstageLatencies do not differ in ELP data base.
57Children (N =22, M age =11.4 years old) Pronunciations were almost all SAE but both were scored as correctMultiple pronunciations a problem for early reader.
69A. Nothing One group cannot legislate how another group should speak But AAE is not the dialect of instruction, business, science etc.
70B. Accommodation Level the playing field! Recognize dialect differencesModify school practices to take it into accountProvide pre-school activities to mitigate effectsDo what they do in other countries that have major dialects?
71An Indian comparison Sonali Nag (York) Chamarajanagar, Karnataka Mainstream language isKannadaMany tribal dialectsLow statusLow SESMainly oral“Bridge year” pre-KEmphasis onexposure to Kannada
72What Form Could This Take in US? Preschool activitiesTo promote knowledge of major features of SAE, awareness of differences between SAE and AAETo promote ability to code switchSchool activitiesContinue activities focused on improving code-switching abilityIncrease awareness of problem: teachers and studentsProvide additional time for initial reading instruction, which takes into account language the child brings to school.
73Would This Activity Eliminate Effects of Poverty? No.
74Would This Increase the Probability of School Success? It could.Have to do more research!People in this room have lots of relevant expertise.Priming some interest in it.
75Would This Approach Be Acceptable? I don’t know. That is a different kind of question.
76Summary Dialect differences matter They affect early learning, later performanceThere are ways that impact could be mitigated“AAE itself is not the cause of reading difficulties so much as lack ofknowledge of SAE, given educational and society expectations”
77Conclusions Reading is deeply dependent on spoken language Writing systems vs. languages they representBasic Skills -- decodingComprehensionLanguage backgroundOf course, literacy also changes spoken languageBut that is a different talk.