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Features of Structured Literacy
Features of Structured Literacy

Teaching Reading to Children Who Speak African American English

The Impact of Language Variation with Dr. Julie Washington

"We need to value and respect every child's home language, not suppress it. If we are quick to 'correct' examples of language varieties in speaking and writing — our students will become afraid to read." — Dr. Julie Washington

In this timely talk, Dr. Julie Washington teaches us how to take full advantage of our students' oral language "repertoire" to become skilled fluent readers. As a speech-language pathologist, researcher, and fellow at the University of California in Irvine, her work focuses on the intersection of literacy, language variation, and poverty in African American children from preschool through fifth grades. She explains how to bridge African American English to print — a critical skill for reading, writing, and spelling. Watch and learn how to take what you already know about teaching reading and adapt it so it works for everybody.

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Produced by Reading Universe, a partnership of WETA, Barksdale Reading Institute, and First Book

While we encourage you to watch this piece in its entirety (trust us, it's worth your time!), you can use this chapter index with timecodes to jump to sections of interest. Each chapter will fit nicely into a teacher professional development training session about reading instruction. Freely share or stream the media in any setting. Our version on YouTube will allow you to skip around from chapter to chapter.

Chapter Timecodes
00:00 Chapter 1: What Is Language Variation?
11:30 Chapter 2: What Is African American English?
14:51 Chapter 3: How Does African American English Work?
23:06 Chapter 4: What We've Learned About Dialect?
28:48 Chapter 5: Why Does Language Variation Matter So Much?
31:00 Chapter 6: The Mismatch Between Oral and Written Language
34:58 Chapter 7: Easing the Cognitive Load on Our Students
38:36 Chapter 8: Dialect Density
44:33 Chapter 9: How Can We Do Better?

You may also like to read Teacher Knowledge: Levering African American English to Build Skilled Readers, a Reading Universe article by Dr. Washington and Carla Burrell Stanford.

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