Teaching Reading to Young English Language Learners Through Folk Literature

Teaching Reading to Young English Language Learners Through Folk Literature

Nabat Erdogan (University of Central Missouri, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4670-3.ch004
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The lack of sufficient reading ability and, consequently, inadequate reading achievement continue to affect large student populations in U.S. schools. English language learners (ELLs), who represent the fastest growing segment of student population in the U.S., constitute one of the largest groups of students who perform poorly on state reading tests. There are many factors contributing to English learners' low reading skills. One of these factors is the lack of appropriate and interesting reading materials or insufficient attention to effective text selection. What kind of texts are considered appropriate for language learners? Effective texts for ELLs should be age-appropriate, language-appropriate, culturally relevant, entertaining, and interesting. This chapter suggests that folktales possess many characteristics of effective texts and can serve as a valuable resource for improving young English learners' literacy skills in English. The chapter exemplifies different characteristics of folktales and provides recommendations for the use of folk literature in the language classroom.
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English Language Learners (ELLs), who represent the fastest growing segment of student population in U.S. schools today, continue to demonstrate inadequate progress in state reading tests. This issue is worth serious attention because ELLs are projected to account for 82 percent of the U.S. population growth before 2050 (Duval-Couetil & Mikulecky, 2011). This projection impels educators to be more proactive and take steps to improve English learners’ reading skills in order to increase their overall achievement. Howard (2012) states that ELLs represent a high number of readers who struggle with basic English literacy. Statistics regarding English learners’ reading achievement also point to this truth already for almost two decades. The National Center for Education Statistics (2015) reports that in all reading assessments from 1998 to 2013 the NAEP average reading scores for English-speaking 4th- and 8th-graders were higher than the scores for their ELL counterparts. According to NCES (2015), in 2013, the achievement gap between non-ELL and ELL students was 38 points at the 4th-grade level, while 45 points at the 8th-grade level, which is not statistically different from the achievement gaps in either 1998 or 2011 for both grade levels (p.136). These facts once more demonstrate that English learners’ inadequate reading achievement is still an issue in U.S. schools today.

There are many factors that contribute to low reading achievement of English learners. Some of these factors are gaps in teachers’ knowledge to provide effective reading instruction (Pollatsek & Treiman, 2015), students’ insufficient reading or the lack of reading for fun (Scholastic & Yankelovich, 2006), the lack of positive attitudes and motivation about reading (Sideridis, Mouzaki, Simos, & Protopapas, 2006), insufficient parent involvement in students’ reading (Akindele, 2012; Lahaie, 2008), and so on. Lack of interesting and both culturally and linguistically appropriate reading materials can also contribute to students’ inadequate reading achievement (Ashford & LeCroy, 2013). The literature often mentions that teachers of ELLs frequently struggle with finding appropriate and interesting reading materials to engage their students and improve their literacy skills especially in the elementary grades insomuch that they often create their own reading curriculum materials (Wilcox, Oliver, Gregory, & Yu, 2019). Teachers of ELLs should know that appropriate text selection can help to close the reading achievement gaps between ELLs and their native-speaking counterparts. To improve literacy for ELLs as well as all struggling learners, teachers should provide students with reading materials that pique children’s interest, and are culturally and linguistically appropriate. It is especially important in lower elementary grades since most students in grades K-3 are usually in the process of learning to read rather than reading to learn (Sisson & Sisson, 2014). Students’ motivation is also important while children are still learning to read fluently, and reading materials that are fun, interesting, and easy to understand can motivate young learners to read (Baker, Dreher, & Guthrie, 2000).

Like all students, ELLs should also have access to age- and language-appropriate reading materials. The incorporation of age- and language-appropriate thematic literature into curriculum has been found especially beneficial for young English language learners as it can stimulate content-based academic learning for ELLs (Smallwood, 2002).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Prediction: The act of forecasting something.

Repetition: The recurrence of an action or an event.

Folk Literature: Folklore or oral tradition that is transmitted by word of mouth and consists of both prose and verse narratives, songs, rituals, proverbs, myths, and so on.

Fairy Tale: A type of folk literature. It is a short story the major characters of which are supernatural creatures such as dwarfs, dragons, fairies, giants, goblins, mermaids, trolls, unicorns, anthropomorphized animals, witches, wizards, stepmothers, evil queens, kings, princesses, and so on.

Fable: A literary genre that presents a story either in prose or verse. Its major characters are different animal species, legendary creatures, plants, or inanimate objects that are anthropomorphized. Fables teach a moral lesson explicitly or implicitly at the end of each story.

Folktale: A genre of folk literature. It is a traditional story that has been passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.

Plot: Sequence of major and minor events occurring in a story, play, novel, film, etc. that conduct the story forward.

Reading: A receptive skill that requires an individual to receive and make meaning of the language input in the form of a written text.

English Language Learner: A term used to refer to an individual who is learning English as a second or an additional language.

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