Language is a powerful mediator of learning. It is the dominant medium through which communication occurs, and it provides humans with symbolic resources through which to manipulate ideas and solve problems. The study of literature is directly situated on the plains of language use. Literary texts are themselves multilayered. Readers stand in dialogic relationship to the multiple layers of potential meaning that the language of literature conveys. In this chapter, I describe an apprenticeship into literary response in a high school serving African American students who are speakers of African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Bakhtin provides a set of constructs through which to analyze the role that AAVE discourse norms played in socializing students into a complex literate practice. The focus on AAVE with these students is important for several reasons. First, a majority of the students had standardized reading scores well below the 50th percentile. The high school had a history of underachievement. The students learned to tackle challenging problems of interpretation in very difficult literary texts within a short period of time, despite their low reading scores. In addition, the variety of English that served as their primary medium of communication (i.e., AAVE) has been denigrated in the academy and viewed more as a detriment than a resource (Bereiter & Engelmann, 1966; Orr, 1987; Stotsky, 1999). Because these student attributes are more often than not viewed as detrimental, it is useful to understand how the students' language resources supported learning.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Title of host publication||Bakhtinian Perspectives on Language, Literacy, and Learning|
|Publisher||Cambridge University Press|
|Number of pages||19|
|State||Published - Jan 1 2004|
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