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"Continua of Biliteracy" - review(s)

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  • Don Osborn
    This important title somehow escaped mention on this list. Here is a review from http://www.aaanet.org/cae/aeq/br/hornberger.htm (citation at end). Another
    Message 1 of 1 , May 9, 2005
      This important title somehow escaped mention on this list. Here is a
      review from http://www.aaanet.org/cae/aeq/br/hornberger.htm (citation
      at end). Another review is published in the latest edition of
      Language in Society Vol. 34, No. 2 (2005) - (see
      http://linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-1453.html for citation but not
      text). DZO

      Continua of Biliteracy: An Ecological Framework for Educational
      Policy, Research, and Practice in Multilingual Settings. Nancy H.
      Hornberger, ed. Bilingual Education and Bilingualism Series. Colin
      Baker and Nancy H. Hornberger, series eds. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual
      Matters, 2003. 370 pp. ISBN 185359654X


      University of California, Santa Barbara

      Continua of Biliteracy presents a valuable collection containing two
      signature chapters describing Nancy Hornberger's theoretical model
      underlying the book, and 11 empirically grounded studies supporting
      the model. This volume exemplifies recent concerns with the need to
      shift focus in theories of literacy away from the previously accepted
      Western tradition to one that account for the true diversity of the
      worlds' literate cultures (see Literacy and Literacies, Collins and
      Blot, Cambridge University Press, 2003). From such a global position,
      we become aware that we in the West have tended to treat literacy as
      a localized enterprise in which the history of Western thought
      developed through written materials has dominated the relationship of
      reading, writing, and speaking in formal instruction. Despite
      Scribner and Cole's original study in Liberia (The Psychology of
      Literacy, Harvard University Press, 1981), which examined different
      kinds of literacy in different languages and scripts to see if
      indigenous literacy played a role in cognitive development, a Western
      bias has continued in studies of schooling and literacy. Scribner and
      Cole attempted to find out whether the cognitive consequences of
      formal literacy instruction in English outweighed writing and reading
      in both the local Vai syllabary script and religious Arabic. The
      study led to few outcomes that could refute the Western schooling
      equals literacy development equation. Perhaps this was because two
      quite different issues were confounded in their work. One issue is
      the mode of instruction, either formal instruction through Western
      schooling or informal specialized-context learning, and whether these
      methods are supported in the local community. The second issue is the
      legitimating power that sanctions the literate medium that is part of
      the surrounding political reality of literacy. The Hornberger
      collection aims to avoid these pitfalls by addressing both these
      issues. It avoids the monoglot bias of exclusively Western-oriented
      studies and moves beyond a programmatic concern with multilingualism
      to seriously address the instructional needs that arise in today's
      multilingual societies.

      A strength of Hornberger's model of literacy is that it recognizes
      these differences and brings together instructional methods, language
      planning considerations and varieties of contexts, and uses for
      literacy that exist in contemporary multilingual societies. The model
      recognizes two vital factors as essential dimensions of any literacy
      theory, the instructional methods and their consequences and the
      legitimating power that reinforces literacy decisions. As Street
      comments in the afterword, any study of multilingualism must be
      grounded in the actualities of literacy instruction, and therefore
      there is a need to consider power and governmental relations as a
      part of literacy choices and outcomes. In other words, there is no
      multilingualism without a political emphasis.

      In the introductory and following chapter, Hornberger describes a
      model of literacy that "offers a framework in which to situate
      research, teaching and language planning in linguistically diverse
      settings" and biliteracy is considered as "any and all instances in
      which communication occurs in two (or more) languages in or around
      writing" (p 35). Hornberger's conceptualization, although recognizing
      the importance of inclusiveness of language choices in multilingual
      settings, also provides researchers, educators, and language planners
      with a framework to make instructional choices. In chapter 2,
      Hornberger and Skilton-Sylvester provide a critical account of how
      the model focuses on enabling a multiplicity of voices and viewpoints
      to be validated in literacy studies, rather than privileging certain
      modes of communication and languages over others. Thus, bringing
      clarity to the choices that are made in many different contexts from
      government offices and language-planning situations to classrooms and
      other real-life settings.

      Eleven chapters presented in four sections provide actual case
      studies of these situations. The first empirical section looks at
      language planning. Colin Baker examines Welsh biliteracy within the
      Welsh National Curriculum. Carole Bloch and Neville Alexander
      consider multilingualism in South African schools from the standpoint
      of classroom practices. Finally, Mihyon Jeon examines the rationale
      for two-way immersion programs in several states with a particular
      focus on Korean-English programs.

      Section three, the second empirical grouping, continues looking at
      the role of biliteracy in creating and maintaining students' social
      and cultural identities. All three chapters describe Spanish-English
      bilingualism in the United States. Felicia Lincoln considers the role
      of biliteracy in a small urban school district in a southern border
      state where the non-native speakers of English are a small minority.
      Carmen Mercado and Melisa Cahnmann look at Spanish-speaking students
      in New York schools and the role of Spanish-English in their school
      lives and how biliteracy can promote a cultural acceptance and
      identity, particularly, in teenage youth. Section four looks further
      at empowerment from the perspective of teachers. It begins with
      Perez, Bostos Flores, and Streker's study of how teachers benefit
      from a biliterate approach in classrooms in the Southwest. The
      remaining chapters look at teacher empowerment through recognition of
      biliteracy in the classroom. Hardman's examination takes place in a
      rural area and Schwinge explores curriculum issues and teacher
      practices in a large Metropolitan school district.

      The final section moves outside of the school and beyond the United
      States. In chapter 12, Holly Pak looks at the role of the Korean
      churches in promoting a heritage language movement for American-born
      Koreans. In chapter 13, Vinti Basu looks at the complexity of the
      language situation surrounding literacy instruction in India, and the
      multiplicity of vernacular languages that exist among a large migrant
      urban population in New Delhi. She compares two types of school
      organizations that provide biliterate instruction in Hindi and
      English for children who would usually have no opportunity for such
      schooling and finds the continua model particularly useful in tying
      together macro issues of language planning in local school decisions.

      Hornberger, in the final chapter, and Street, in the afterword,
      reflect on how the model is used. This varied collection provides a
      valuable resource for those who have a professional concern with
      literacy, including researchers, classroom teachers, and
      administrators who must make language and instructional programs
      choices that speak both to theoretical and practical instructional

      2004 American Anthropological Association. This review is cited and
      indexed in the December 2004 issue (35:4) of Anthropology & Education

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