The Reading Matrix
Vol. 2, No. 1, April 2002

Reading and Writing in More Than One Language: Lessons for Teachers
Elizabeth Franklin (Editor)
TESOL: Alexandria,Virginia. 1999
ISBN: 0-939-791-76-5
Reviewed by Cindy Brantmeier
Washington University

This book is an edited volume of 7 chapters devoted to issues in L2 literacy in the K-12 classroom with bilingual learners. The contributions from 10 authors inform our understanding of L2 literacy through personal voices speaking from real classrooms about real experiences. The authors of each chapter provide anecdotal evidence as they critically analyze relevant and practical issues. The book can be divided in three different parts, moving from bilingual literacy activities across varied instructional levels, to a descriptions of individual classrooms, and finally to a focus on individual bilingual children. Each chapter is learner centered as the authors become reflective practitioners of literacy development in more than one language.

The authors of Chapter One, Yvonee and David Freeman, provide rich evidence of the trials that English learners face at the secondary level. Their instructional recommendations are based on a combination of theory and practice. The Freemans use Cortes's four dimensional model of multiculturation as the objective for teachers: (1) mainstream empowerment, (2) intergroup understanding, (3) group resources, and (4) civic commitment. The authors offer practical ways for teachers to achieve these goals. The descriptions are filled with evidence from a case study of a student, Noe, who is a recent Mexican immigrant. The challenges that Noe faces serve as anecdotal evidence of the obstacles that many new immigrants encounter.

In the next chapter, Carole Urzúa emphasizes classroom environments that nourish literacy in an authentic way. She provides an example of a Cambodian sixth-grade student who overcomes his anxiety to write through consistent interaction and encouragement by the teacher. This non-authoritative interaction underlines Urzúa's concept of nourishment in the literacy classroom. In Chapter Three, Katharine Davies Samway and Carlyn Syvanen give a rich account of older second language learners tutoring younger students. The emphasis in this study is a stress-free environment. The collaborative efforts among older students helping younger students is not just a one-way paradigm: the examples are a fine depiction of the reciprocal process involved in this kind of instruction.

Kathryn Weed and Monica Ford report on a study of one classroom with students of different grade levels and several different first languages in Chapter Four. The teacher, Monica, uses a variety of techniques, both visual and aural, to teach literacy. Monica does not emphasize direct mechanical grammar instruction in class. Rather, she provides a low-anxiety, learner-driven environment where the students serve as artists, authors, and presenters of language.

The next two chapters emphasize the literacy development of individual bilingual children. Sarah Hudelson reports on a case study of the development of one bilingual learner, Juanita. The vivid detailed descriptions of Juanita's use of English and Spanish as she passes from first to third grade depict the significance of the connections between instruction and assessment. In Chapter Six, Eric Franklin offers a captivating depiction of the processes involved in the fiction writing of two Dakota boys. The emphasis is on the learner-centeredness of the classroom where the two boys choose the topics, genres and styles of their own writing while the teacher's role is that of facilitator. The individual learner differences between the two boys are accounted for as the teacher allows them to write feely without excessive guidelines.

Finally, the last chapter reports on a longitudinal case study conducted of an individual child's literacy development during a period of four years. The complex interacting variables involved in literacy development are illustrated as the child is exposed to four different languages: English and French at school, and Persian and Arabic at home. Mary Maquire, the author, shows how social, cultural, historical and political forces join to shape one little girl's identity in a variety of contexts - both inside and outside the classroom walls.

Overall, the book offers intriguing accounts of the diverse factors involved in reading and writing in more than one language. The strength of this book lies in its great scope and diversity of investigations that challenge the reader to think critically about the development of literacy with K-12 learners. Teachers who are involved in literacy instruction at the elementary, middle and secondary school levels can use this book as a framework to examine their own teaching practices. Furthermore, instructional implications are offered and are grounded in the research and theories presented. Overall, this book is a profound collection of qualitative studies conducted with K-12 learners in different language and cultural environments. The authors show how the teachers learn simultaneously with the students in each study. The emphasis on the individual learners illustrates the complexity of the interacting and often competing mechanisms involved in literacy development in more than one language. The real words of the students and teachers should be heard by all those involved in first and second language literacy instruction, including parents and those involved in community services. Finally, the combined studies reveal a variety of insights about literacy development that cannot be quantified. In other words, the qualitative inquiries give rich descriptions that cannot be provided by statistical analysis, and they show that we have much to learn about the complex phenomenon of learning to read and write in more than one language. Though each chapter ends with suggestions for instruction, the authors do not provide suggestions for future research. The book's strength lies in the valuable lessons for teachers that are offered.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cindy Brantmeier is an Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics and Spanish at Washington University in St. Louis. She is also Co-Director of the Graduate Certificate in Language Instruction. Her research interests and publications focus on interacting variables in second language reading; individual learner differences in second language acquisition; and language and gender. She teaches graduate courses on Second Language Acquisition and Technology, L2 Reading and Writing, and Methods of L2 Teaching.