Engaging African American Families in Literacy

Edited by:
Tiffany A. Flowers, Georgia Perimeter College
Lamont A. Flowers, Clemson University

A volume in the series: Contemporary Perspectives on Access, Equity, and Achievement. Editor(s): Chance W. Lewis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Early Childhood Longitudinal Study African American students score lower than their White counterparts on standardized tests of literacy achievement (Denton & West, 2002). In fact, African American students score lower than White, Latino, and Asian students on each indicator related to early literacy development. The indicators include: (a) proficiency in recognizing letters; (b) beginning sounds; (c) ending sounds; (d) sight words; and (e) words in context. Another NCES report (Rathbun & West, 2004) suggests that African American students score below all of their peers in Kindergarten. Data from other studies have shown that the achievement gap between African American and other ethnic groups begins in the early grades and widens as students matriculate through the intermediate grades, middle school, and high school (Au & Raphael, 2000; Irvine, 2002; Jackson, 2007; Jencks & Phillips, 1998; Perry, Steele & Hilliard, 2003; Thompson, 2004).

The racial achievement gap has been investigated by several educational researchers using a variety of philosophical and methodological approaches to identify the salient factors contributing to the lack of parity in educational outcomes by race. A substantial body of research suggests that all young children must have a strong foundation in early literacy at home to achieve academically in school (Bradley & Jones, 2007; Heath, 1983; Metsula, 1996; Paratore & Jordan, 2007; Purcell-Gates, 1995). Metsula (1996) examined the diary content and interview responses of parents from low-income and middle-income families in order to examine the achievement gap. Metsuala noted that allowing children to explore literacy materials will provide an enriching literacy experience. Paratore and Jordan (2007) indicated that teaching parents about language and literacy promoted increased gains in literacy achievement (e.g., letter recognition, phonemic awareness, narrative understanding, and vocabulary development) for the students. Also, there is considerable evidence that family literacy impacts the literacy development of students (Morrow & Parratore, 1993; Purcell-Gates, 1995; Taylor, 1983). However, there are few if any studies and texts pertaining to Black family literacy. Therefore, in order to provide a framework for working with Black families, the proposed edited volume seeks to analyze the empirical research, raise awareness, and discuss strategies to enhance literacy outcomes among African American families.

Chapter 1. Why Black Family Literacy? Chapter 2. Historical Considerations and Black Families. Chapter 3. Diversity among Black Families. Chapter 4. Black Families and Language Differences. Chapter 5. Black Families and Schools. Chapter 6. Black Families and Access to Literacy. Chapter 7. Black Families and Family Literacy. Chapter 8. Black Families and Community Partnerships. Chapter 9. Black Families and School Partnerships. Chapter 10. Culturally Relevant Frameworks for Black Families. Chapter 11. Future Recommendations.