Unlocking the code : matters of agency, metalinguistic skills, and literacy achievement for speakers of non-mainstream American English / by Adrina O. Smith.
This study examined the latent factors of dialect variation as they relate to reading achievement of second grade students. Sociocultural theory, identity theories, and critical theory used against a metaphorical backdrop of a bundle of locks were used to illustrate the complexity of language variation and its effect on reading achievement within minority populations. Current findings have established a negative correlation between reading achievement and use of Non-Mainstream American English (NMAE)—such that reading achievement decreases as use of NMAE increases. Although this relationship has been established, few researchers have utilized qualitative inquiry to explore the relationship between linguistic variance and reading. This study implemented an explanatory design of mixed methods. Quantitatively, the Diagnostic Evaluation of Language Variation-Screening Test (DELV-S) measured the linguistic variation and the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement-Third Edition (WJ-III) measured the reading comprehension of four second-grade students. Qualitatively, the students participated in follow-up interviews, sharing their lived experiences of metalinguistic awareness, dialect variation, and literacy acquisition. Findings affirmed the inverse relationship between use of NMAE and reading achievement and linguistic awareness. Findings also indicated that semantic awareness shapes linguistic awareness and conscientiousness of linguistic style, and the ability to accommodate the speech styles of others by means of convergence increases as variation away from Mainstream American English (MAE) decreases. Recommendations for further study include interviews with older students, monolingual students, and students who code switch regularly.
Smith, Adrina O.