African-American boys who tell better stories as preschoolers may learn to read more quickly

By | July 17, 2017

Helping African-American boys improve their ability to tell stories in preschool could increase the speed at which they learn to read later on, according to new research from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Researcher Nicole Gardner-Neblett said the results were something of a surprise. Her previous research had found that strong oral narrative skills in preschool predicted better reading comprehension in elementary school for African-American children, though not for white, Hispanic or Asian children. This latest study was an attempt to find out more about that connection, especially as it demonstrated an area of academic strength for a group that is often considered at a disadvantage in school.

Gardner-Neblett said much research on African-American children “is done from a deficit approach. What are these children lacking? What are they doing wrong?” Such an approach can help identify what’s wrong, she said, but “it makes it hard to hone in on what contributes to success.”

Identifying strengths that could lead to success in reading is of particular importance, Gardner-Neblett said, because of the wide skill gap between African- American students and white students. On the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, African-American fourth graders performed 26 points lower than white fourth graders in measures of reading. (The Hechinger Report)

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