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Ethical Considerations

African American Vernacular English (AAVE) linguistics research began in 1960's. There were some publications that focused on the relationship between language learning and social dialects and the relationship between teaching of English and non standard speech. As these publications indicate, the first ten years of the research on AAVE strongly focused on educational concerns. The US Office of Education funded the first large scale sociolinguistic survey on African American Vernacular English. The research on AAVE dealt exclusively with the way with which the orderly nature of AAVE could be considered in improved ways of teaching the reading and language arts to the inner cities’ African American children. One review of non Standard English was adopted to be a standard book in a couple of institutions which were concerned with teacher training.

As a result of negligence in educational concerns over the last twenty years, and the fact that linguistics has not been much involved in schools curriculum has made the contributions linguistics has made to solving educational challenges of African American limited (Salikoko, et al 1998).

AAVE, in addition to other non-standard dialects are systematic. Teachers should learn enough about AAVE in order to recognize when their students are making mistakes in reading instead of reproducing correctly-read Standard English in the patterns of their own vernacular. Some solutions were suggested. These include the use of dialect readers, oral exercises, drills, and other ways of teaching African American children to read. The use of African American expressive styles and rhetorical be more fully included into the classroom. These are useful achievements, but they fall short of the vast promise of theoretical insight and also the practical solution which linguistics offers to the educational challenges of working and lower class African Americans thirty years ago.

John R. Rickford and Angela E. Rickford research was conducted in East Palo Alto (EPA), California which is a multi-ethnic, low-income city located in the east of Palo Alto. Referring to the 1990 census, the population in the city included 23, 451 people. About 36% Hispanic, 42% were Black, 6% Pacific Islander, 12% White, 3% Asian and 1% American Indian. In 1992 the city had the highest per capita rate of homicides. This was attributed to the cocaine drug trade (www.edu-cyberpg.com).

In 1990 schools in East Menlo Park and East Palo Alto one of the lowest scores in the states’ Assessment Program indicated that reading scores were at the 16th % in the state at the third grade level and 3 % at the sixth grade level. Their corresponding third grade writing scores were 21%, but by grade 6 they had slipped to the 3% test results.

According to the California Learning Assessment System (CLAS), the 1994 scores for the Ravenswood School District were better, 58% of the fourth grade students scored 3 and above in reading, and 78% scored in 3 and above in writing. These results implied that the noble efforts by teachers and administrators in the district to turn things around were having some success. This was despite limited resources at their disposal, and also many challenges which faced them (www.edu-cyberpg.com).

For West African multilingual situations, one of the most promising innovations in the direction of a productive literacy program is the academic separation of beginning reading from the native language first and then transferring the reading skills in whatever foreign language.

The persistence reading problem in schools populated by speakers of AAVE may indicate the second coming of dialect readers. Experimental evidence of their efficiency, although limited and under publicized can be seen. Attitude towards AAVE among young adults and working class adolescents is stronger compared to twenty to thirty years ago. This provides a favorable climate. There are several lessons to be learnt here. One is that we need updated dialect readers and corresponding SE texts, carefully matched to the dialects in terms of grade level, difficulty of comprehension, readability and exercises that accompany such texts.

The  second one is that we need to ensure that students who receive the SE and AAVE versions of the same narrative match when it comes to reading ability, and that they are equally divided along gender lines, with enough opportunities for their attitudes towards the exercises. The third lesson is that we need a combination of short term comprehension tests, and long term studies of reading improvement with experimental groups extended to a year, and with elementary and also high school students.

A fourth lesson is that the teachers overseeing the study need to be more involved in the community itself. They should display their commitment in positive ways and work harder to influence, understand, and be influenced by the attitudes of students, parents and teachers. A fifth lesson is that we should start small private schools which might be more open than the public schools to experiment with an African American twist and experiment with dialect readers. A final lesson is that we should proceed with research on other means of teaching and reading to working class who speak AAVE, and to others who need help. The idea is not to bring about the issue of dialect readers as a religion but it is one of several possibilities to which linguists might be willing to contribute to research (www.africanamericanenglish.com).

Reading road is a tutoring program meant to raise achievement of struggling leaders schooling in low income schools. The program structure includes: sound to letter correspondences in the English alphabet. There are also activities to help focus children attention on a complex one to many and many to one, letter to sound correspondences. Children are taught narratives illustrated in full color with a vocabulary that is controlled. They are given home stories for them to take and read them to people at home. There is also detective game: questions on motivation and reasoning of characters so as to develop comprehension and finally the tower Game: tests for each section to gauge readers' progress.

Reading road is developed for struggling readers in schools at low income areas. Both style and content are aimed at interests of children in poor community, illiterate and affect by social conflict. The program has been successful with children in the second to fifth grade who were behind in reading grade level. It has been particularly successful with the most alienated and discouraged readers. Reading road provides readers with two mentors: Tanya and Tony. They appear in many pages with questions for readers to answer, making them to understand the story line beyond decoding at the word level. Readers start with the Introduction to Tony and Tanya, where Tony explains how he became interested in reading.

Robert Titzer is the creator of the Your Baby Can Read system for teaching babies to read. He is an infant researcher and. The Your Baby Can Read books and DVDs were published in 1997. The series’ methods are based on his infant research. They are also inspired by his personal experience of teaching his daughters to read as babies.

According to Titzer’s research, the most favorable time for learning to read is the same as the most favorable time for learning spoken languages. It’s easier to learn the patterns of language early in childhood as opposed to later in childhood. While some may think reading is a task that is too complex for young children, it’s likely the brain will develop more competently for reading when the child learns to read early compared to later in childhood.

Activating children’s neural circuitry for reading early on is healthy. The window for learning language starts to close by age four, meaning that children who learn to read after the age of four might not develop the best neural circuitry meant for reading (www.edu-cyberpg.com). The age at which reading instruction begins may control a child’s reading ability and also their attitude to reading as well. Children who are taught to read at a much earlier age desire to read more than children taught at age five or later.

Some people might think that there are only short term advantages to be gained from early reading. Your Baby Can Read website refers to several studies that suggest long term benefits. Early readers stay ahead of those who are taught later in life. Some research shows that that the gap between early readers and later readers increases over time. This is sometimes referred to as the Matthews Effect, where poor learners get poorer and rich learners get richer (www.ling.upenn.edu).

Other people believe learning to read early may harm children emotionally, but Children who go to school with reading skills posses higher self esteem than children who cannot read when they go to school. The importance of learning to read earlier can hardly be overstated. Reading is the most vital skill a child learns. It increases learning skills, and it also helps children succeed in school and later in life.

Titzer in his website tries to answer the question Why is early learning so important? The time from birth to age eight and especially, from birth to age three is a critical time for brain development in the baby. The first years of life lay the neurological foundation for intellectual growth.

From the time of conception, the nerve cells of the brain multiply faster than any other cells in a baby’s body. The rapid development of baby’s brain continues into early childhood. An adult brain has over 100 billion neurons, majority of which were formed during first 5 months in the womb. Each of the brain’s neurons is connected to roughly 5,000 others. In general, the more dendrites (branches between neurons) and synapses (connections between neurons) the brain has, the greater its processing power. More pathways mean information can travel in a number of ways, opening the door to faster and more complex thinking.

Bring Me a Book is a non profit making organization that provide libraries of high quality books. They also provide read aloud workshops to underserved communities. The organization inspires reading around to children. Their most important goal is to see children’s’ future success in future in reading.

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