Suggestions for Improving the Literacy Performance of American Indian Children
Cleary and Peacock (1998) make several suggestions for improving the literacy
performance of American Indian children:
- "Understand, and help parents understand, that reading is acquired when
children see its usefulness, the potential fun in it, and when they practice
- Find reading materials that will have real meaning for the children--materials
they can connect with their experience.
- Engage students in writing that will have real purpose and audience, which
will show students the usefulness of writing for themselves in the modern
world. Give students the explicit lessons that will help them define their
difficulty with standard English dialect as connected to their early learning
of another rich dialect that also had rules (but different rules). Help students
to see the difference in the rules of each dialect.
- Give students explicit lessons in the difference in structures between their
traditional storytelling and fiction from the dominant culture.
- Give students explicit lessons--lessons connecting their writing to real
purpose and audience--which will show them the need to decontextualize language
so that those out of their immediate environment can understand their thoughts.
- Engage students in literacy acts that will empower them or their communities.
- Above all, let students engage in literacy acts that draw on or connect
to their strengths (creative strengths or any strengths)." (pp. 198-199)
The authors emphasize that teachers of American Indian children need to provide
high academic expectations, explicit writing lessons, culturally relevant reading
materials, respect for the oral tradition, and time and space for multiple discourses
and languages within the classroom. They add, "Students need to connect literature
with personal experience and then be taught explicitly how to move toward analysis
in abstract words, using conventional academic formats as a way of articulating
their experience for a distant audience" (p. 193).
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