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TESOL MA Literature Review

1-Introduction Reading involves more than merely reciting a text. When individuals read, they are, in effect, coming to understand the world from an author, a supposed “expert other” who guides the reader along his or her zone of proximal development “using various cultural tools….to arrive at a more in-depth or clearer understanding of a concept” (Reyes 2001, p. 98). Likewise, when a learner begins the writing process, he or she begins the process of developing the ability to effectively convey ideas in ways which allow him or her to connect with and be understood by his audience. This often requires that the learner get assistance from others (e.g. teachers or editors) to further enhance his or her ability. Thus, literacy is a dynamic process which not only involves an individual and a text, but rather a “transpersonal” phenomenon simultaneously involving “social, cultural, and linguistic acts” (p. 98). Literacy is especially important for immigrant children. Cummins (2005) stated that literacy “scaffolds children’s acquisition of narrative schema and linguistic conventions” thus “anchoring L1 maintenance and enhancing receptive and productive skills” (p. 411). Literacy acts are very profound and their effects are very pronounced in minority communities. English L2 learners from minority groups make up a significant segment of the student population in American schools. For communities such as these, individuals must not only attempt to successfully learn a new language and become literate in that language, but they must also make efforts to maintain aspects of their native language with the extra task, if they see fit, of becoming literate in their L1s (Paez and Rinaldi, 2006, p. 338). In the past, it was feared that maintenance of immigrants’ L1 would hinder their assimilation into American society and was generally discouraged. Furthermore, it has been suggested that bilingualism retards children’s cognitive development. However, several recent studies have provided evidence that literacy may play an integral role in language maintenance and development and serve as a bulwark against attrition and language loss in children (Kopke, 2004, p.14; Lim & Cole, 2002, p. 214; Cummins, 1979, p. 223). Kopke (2004) stated that literacy aids in preventing attrition of a learner’s L1 by increasing an individual’s “contact” with the target language in addition to serving as a source of “prestige” in the second language (p.14). Other researchers have presented findings that suggest that being literate in the L1 aids learners, particularly young learners, in eventually becoming proficient in their L2 (Courcy, 2007, pp. 3-4). Cummins (2005) explained the aforementioned assertions in terms of the interdependence theory: In other words, the “underlying cognitive/academic proficiency” that becomes manifest when learners acquire one language is available to utilize when they acquire a second language. As a result, individuals are able to transfer linguistic and/or conceptual elements from their L1 to their L2 (p.4). In order for transfer to take place, learners need to have developed a sufficient level of competency in their L1, which Cummins referred to as the threshold hypothesis (Wakabayashi, 2002). Contrastingly, when children have not sufficiently developed competencies in their L1s, exposure to an L2 in an L2 dominant environment will tend to lead to low performance in both the L1 and L2 suggesting “cognitive disadvantages” for the aforementioned type of language immersion (Verhoeven, 1994, p. 383). In order for emerging bilingual children to benefit from literacy in multiple languages, parental as well as institutional support and encouragement is held by Cummins (1979) as imperative and indeed a critical element that can influence children’s ability to function in the L1 and L2 (p. 223). Given the fact that “language and literacy development begins within the home and through family experiences,” many researchers have suggested that parents be trained in using stories to serve as a foundation for “decontextualized [sic] discussions” which has been Read more…

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