Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

Speaking Up for African American English: Equity and Inclusion in Early Childhood Settings

  • Published:
Early Childhood Education Journal Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

A large percentage of young children entering preschool are English speakers who speak a language variety that often differs from the English dialect expected by educators within early childhood programs. While African American English (AAE) is one of the most widely recognized English dialects in the United States, the use of AAE in schools and programs has been viewed negatively. In this article, we assert that to meet the needs of young children who speak AAE, educators can take an equity and inclusion perspective to consider practices related to dialect. To this end, we discuss (a) meanings of equity and inclusion, (b) AAE dialect characteristics and importance, (c) educator perceptions of AAE, and (d) recommendations to provide equitable and inclusive early childhood services to young children who speak AAE. We suggest that early childhood educators reflect on linguistic identity and biases, investigate linguistic diversity, explicitly teach standard English, and partner with families to learn about diversity and dialect. By focusing on both equity and inclusion, early childhood educators can foster an accepting environment and positive outcomes for all children, including those who speak AAE.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Adger, C. T., Snow, C. E., & Christian, D. (Eds.). (2002). What teachers need to know about language. McHenry, IL: Delta Systems.

    Google Scholar 

  • Adger, C. T., Wolfram, W., & Christian, D. (2007). Dialects in schools and communities. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Artiles, A. J., & Kozleski, E. B. (2007). Beyond convictions: Interrogating culture, history, and power in inclusive education. Language Arts, 84, 357–360.

    Google Scholar 

  • Artiles, A. J., Kozleski, E. B., & Waitoller, F. R. (Eds.). (2011). Inclusive education: Examining equity on five continents. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ball, A. F. (1995). Text design patterns in the writing of urban African American students: Teaching to the cultural strengths of students in multicultural settings. Urban Education, 30(3), 253–289.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blake, R., & Cutler, C. (2003). AAE and variation in teachers’ attitudes: A question of school philosophy? Linguistics and Education, 14(2), 163–194.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blanchett, W. J. (2006). Disproportionate representation of African American students in special education: Acknowledging the role of white privilege and racism. Educational Researcher, 35(6), 24–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bliss, L. S., & McCabe, A. (2008). Personal narratives: Cultural differences and clinical implications. Topics in Language Disorders, 28(2), 162–177.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, B. A. (2006). “It isn’t no slang that can be said about this stuff”: Language, identity, and appropriating science discourse. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(1), 96–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cazden, C. B. (2001). The language of teaching and learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

    Google Scholar 

  • Charity, A. H., Scarborough, H. S., & Griffin, D. M. (2004). Familiarity with school English in African American children and its relation to early reading achievement. Child Development, 75(5), 1340–1356.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cheatham, G. A., Armstrong, J., & Santos, R. M. (2009). “Y’all listenin’?” Accessing children’s dialects in preschool. Young Exceptional Children, 12(4), 2–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, E. V. (2007). Conventionality and contrast in language and language acquisition. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 115, 11–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Corson, D. (2001). Language diversity and education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cross, J. B., DeVaney, T., & Jones, G. (2001). Pre-service teacher attitudes toward differing dialects. Linguistics and Education, 12(2), 211–227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Datnow, A., & Cooper, R. (1997). Peer networks of African American students in independent schools: Affirming academic success and racial identity. Journal of Negro Education, 66(1), 56–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Delpit, L. (2006). What should teachers do? Ebonics and culturally responsive instruction. In S. J. Nero (Ed.), Dialects, Englishes, creoles, and education (pp. 93–101). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Delpit, L. D., & Dowdy, J. K. (Eds.). (2008). Skin that we speak: Thoughts on language and culture in the classroom. New York, NY: The New Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Division for Early Childhood. (2010). Responsiveness to ALL children, families, and professionals: Integrating cultural and linguistic diversity into policy and practice. Position statement. Missoula, MT: Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children.

  • Dyson, A. H. (2006). On saying it right (write): “Fix-its” in the foundations of learning to write. Research in the Teaching of English, 41(1), 8–42.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dyson, A. H., & Smitherman, G. (2009). The right (write) start: African American language and the discourse of sounding right. The Teachers College Record, 111(4), 973–998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fogel, H., & Ehri, L. C. (2000). Teaching elementary students who speak Black English vernacular to write in standard English: Effects of dialect transformation practice. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(2), 212–235.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fogel, H., & Ehri, L. C. (2006). Teaching African American English forms to standard American English-speaking teachers: Effects on acquisition, attitudes, and responses to student use. Journal of Teacher Education, 57(5), 464–480.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fordham, S. (1999). Dissin’ “the standard”: Ebonics as guerrilla warfare at capital high. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 30(3), 272–293.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Foster, M. (1992). Sociolinguistics and the African-American community: Implications for literacy. Theory into Practice, 31(4), 303–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2), 106–116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Godley, A. J., Sweetland, J., Wheeler, R. S., Minnici, A., & Carpenter, B. D. (2006). Preparing teachers for dialectally diverse classrooms. Educational Researcher, 35(8), 30–37.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goldstein, B. A., & Horton-Ikard, R. (2010). Diversity considerations in speech and language disorders. In J. S. Damico, N. Mueller, & M. J. Ball (Eds.), The handbook of language and speech disorders (pp. 38–56). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Green, L. J. (2002). African American English: A linguistic introduction. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Harris-Wright, K. (1999). Enhancing bidialectalism in urban African American students. In C. T. Adger, D. Christian, & O. Taylor (Eds.), Making the connection: Language and academic achievement among African American students (pp. 53–60). McHenry, IL: Delta Systems and Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

  • Harry, B., Klingner, J. K., & Hart, J. (2005). African American families under fire: Ethnographic views of family strengths. Remedial and Special Education, 26(2), 101–112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hill, N. E., & Craft, S. A. (2003). Parent–school involvement and school performance: Mediated pathways among socioeconomically comparable African American and Euro-American families. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(1), 74–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hilliard, A. B. (2002). Language, culture, and the assessment of African American children. In L. Delpit & J. K. Dowdy (Eds.), The skin that we speak: Thoughts on language and culture in the classroom (pp. 88–105). New York, NY: New Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Howard, G. (1999). We can’t teach what we don’t know: White teachers, multicultural schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hughes, J., & Kwok, O. M. (2007). Influence of student–teacher and parent–teacher relationships on lower achieving readers’ engagement and achievement in the primary grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(1), 39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Katz, L. G., & Chard, S. C. (2000). Engaging children’s minds: The project approach. Stamford, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kozleski, E. B., Mulligan, E., & Hernandez-Saca, D. (2011). Language (policy) matters! Equity work that matters. The equity alliance. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University. Retrieved from http://www.equityallianceatasu.org/sites/default/files/whatmatters/Language-Policy-Matters.pdf.

  • Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lareau, A., & Horvat, E. M. (1999). Moments of social inclusion and exclusion race, class, and cultural capital in family–school relationships. Sociology of Education, 72(1), 37–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lockhart, J. (1991). “We real cool”: Dialect in the middle-school classroom. The English Journal, 80(8), 53–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martínez, G. (2003). Classroom based dialect awareness in heritage language instruction: A critical applied linguistic approach. Heritage Language Journal, 1(1), 1–14.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCabe, A., & Bliss, L. (2003). Patterns of narrative discourse: A multicultural, life span approach. Boston, MA: Pearson.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCabe, A., Bliss, L., Barra, G., & Bennett, M. (2008). Comparison of personal versus fictional narratives of children with language impairment. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 17(2), 194.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Michaels, S. (1984). Listening and responding: Hearing the logic in children’s classroom narratives. Theory into Practice, 23(3), 218–224.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Michaels, S., & Cook-Gumperz, J. (1979). A study of sharing time with first grade students: Discourse narratives in the classroom. In Proceedings of the annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (Vol. 5, pp. 647–660). Retrieved from http://elanguage.net/journals/bls/article/download/2173/2139.

  • Nagy, W. (2007). Metalinguistic awareness and the vocabulary-comprehension connection. In R. K. Wagner, A. E. Muse, & K. R. Tennenbaum (Eds.), Vocabulary acquisition: Implications for reading comprehension (pp. 52–77). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1995). Responding to cultural and linguistic diversity: Recommendations for effective early childhood education. Position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PSDIV98.PDF.

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children birth through age 8. Position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC. Retrieved from http://naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PSDAP.pdf.

  • National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems. (2007). Culturally responsive pedagogy and practice. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University. Retrieved from http://www.nccrest.org/professional/culturally_responsive_pedagogy-and.html.

  • Reaser, J., & Adger, C. T. (2008). Twelve vernacular language varieties in educational settings: Research and development. In B. Spolsky & F. M. Hult (Eds.), The handbook of educational linguistics (pp. 161–171). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Rickford, J. R., Sweetland, J., & Rickford, A. E. (2004). African American English and other vernaculars in education: A topic-coded bibliography. Journal of English Linguistics, 32(3), 230–320.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sektnan, M., McClelland, M. M., Acock, A., & Morrison, F. J. (2010). Relations between early family risk, children’s behavioral regulation, and academic achievement. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25(4), 464–479.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shonkoff, J. P., & Phillips, D. A. (Eds.). (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Skiba, R. J., Simmons, A. B., Ritter, S., Gibb, A. C., Rausch, M. K., Cuadrado, J., et al. (2008). Achieving equity in special education: History, status, and current challenges. Exceptional Children, 74(3), 264–288.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smitherman, G., & Villanueva, V. (Eds.). (2003). Language diversity in the classroom: From intention to practice. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wong, S. W., & Hughes, J. N. (2006). Ethnicity and language contributions to dimensions of parent involvement. School Psychology Review, 35(4), 645.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Margaret Beneke.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Beneke, M., Cheatham, G.A. Speaking Up for African American English: Equity and Inclusion in Early Childhood Settings. Early Childhood Educ J 43, 127–134 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-014-0641-x

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-014-0641-x

Keywords

Navigation