The Availability of Spanish Heritage Language Materials in Public and School Libraries
1270 E. Campus Dr., Tempe, Arizona, USA
Based on the premise that heritage language (HL) materials are important for supporting first-language literacy, both as a foundation for English-language learning and as a vital part of maintaining and developing heritage languages, this study attempts to determine how much HL material is available for language minority students in the libraries of a large elementary school district in Phoenix, Arizona. It also attempts to determine whether there is any relationship between a school’s instructional approach for its English-language learners and the quantity of heritage language reading material offered. Seven school and two public libraries were examined to determine the availability of books in languages other than English. Although all of the schools had large second-language populations representing many different language backgrounds, the findings reveal only a very limited number of books in languages other than English available in the libraries and the majority of these were in Spanish. The study also found only a weak relationship between the type of language programmes offered by the schools and the number of heritage language books available. The study highlights the growing issue of equity and fairness in the distribution of resources for language minority students.
Census 2000 results have documented explosive growth in minority populations in the United States over the last decade. US Census Bureau figures show that the population of the United States is becoming proportionally less White and more African-American, Asian, and Hispanic/Latino. While the total population increased 13% over the last ten years, the Hispanic/Latino population increased 58%, with the population of non-Hispanic/Latino African-Americans increasing 21% (Census 2000). Analysts attribute this unexpected increase in minority populations, in part, to higher-than-expected rates of immigration. From an educational perspective, the growing number of immigrants has very real and significant implications for our schools, educational programmes, and policies, particularly around issues of bilingual education and English-language learning. In particular, the distribution of resources for immigrant populations is becoming an important focus of discussions around equity and fairness for language minority (LM) students (Tse, 2001). How to best educate children from diverse language backgrounds is a continuing concern. The various programmes and policies can be viewed as a continuum of the amount and function of L1 (primary language) use in the classroom. Programmes range from Two-way Bilingual programmes that integrate language minority and English-speaking students, teaching language and content in both the L1 and L2 (often referred to as developmental bilingual education), to English Immersion programmes where only the L2 (English) is
1367-0050/02/04 0233-11 $20.00/0 International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism ©2002 D. Lambson Vol. 5, No. 4, 2002
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used in the classroom. No doubt the recent data from Census 2000 will further fuel the debate over which programmes and policies are most effective for educating the growing numbers of English-language learners in the US.
Literacy Issues Involved in Bilingual/ESL Education
Many studies have examined the connection between literacy in the first or heritage language (L1) and in the second language (L2). Collier (1992) reviewed a group of studies that examined the levels of school achievement among immigrant students who had received some schooling in their native country before emigrating. The studies found that immigrants who received two to three years of home language instruction before emigration did better in L2 schooling than those who received all their schooling in L2. Other studies have examined the role that L1 literacy plays in second-language learning. A study by Dufva and Voeten (1999: 342) looked specifically at the effect of native-language literacy on learning English as a foreign language. They found that both native-language literacy (word recognition skills and comprehension skills) and phonological memory had positive effects on English learning for 160 Finnish school children. Specifically they state, ‘these three skills explained as much as 58% of the variance in the beginning stage of English proficiency’. A number of studies have focused on cross-language transfer of literacy skills (Buriel & Cardoza, 1988; Cummins, 1991; Durgunoglu & Hancin, 1992; Mortensen, 1984). The studies have shown that the literacy skills developed and strategies used in L1 can be transferred to L2 learning. Specifically, both lower-level literacy skills (morphological, phonological, syntactic skills), as well as higher-level skills (text-processing strategies, metacognitive skills), can transfer to second-language reading. Citing strong evidence of the positive effects of L1 literacy development for English-language learners, Krashen (1996: 20) states, ‘We learn to read by reading…. If we learn to read by reading, it will be much easier to learn to read in a language we already understand…. Once we can read, we can read. The ability to read transfers across languages, even when the systems are different’. According to Krashen, an extremely effective way to help limited English-proficient (LEP) children become literate in English is to build literacy in the student’s primary language by providing native-language books and print environments. L1 literacy development is equally important for supporting and maintaining heritage languages. A review of studies by Krashen (1998) showed that heritage languages often become the victims of the powerful forces of language shift that favour the languages of the country over the languages of the family. It is increasingly difficult in the dominant society to retain and preserve the use of minority languages, particularly among young people. A report by Veltman (1988) showed that the shift to English dominance in the US was increasing among Spanish speakers. He noted that the group was fast approaching a two-generation pattern of language loss as compared to a three-generation model typical of immigrant groups of the past. Other minority languages are facing a similar demise. Once the Navajo language was vibrant and strong within the Native American community; today the rate of Navajo language loss among the young is ‘rapid and troubling’ (Crawford, 1999: 189).
Spanish Heritage Language Materials
A principal challenge to heritage language (HL) maintenance and development is the problem of limited access to HL materials at home, in school, and in the community (McQuillan, 1998a). McQuillan states that in order to meet this challenge we must provide students with easy access to interesting, comprehensible heritage language texts in low-risk environments. His review of seven research studies showed that programmes that increased access to HL texts and promoted free voluntary reading among HL students were successful and effective. Whereas resisting social and/or political factors leading to language loss and language shift may prove more difficult, providing greater access to free heritage language reading materials and opportunities for self-selected reading may be a more immediate and achievable goal for helping language minority students maintain and further develop their home languages. Numerous studies have shown in the past that more reading leads to better reading achievement, but only more recently have researchers considered the importance of book access on reading achievement (Koskinen et al., 2000; Krashen, 1995; McQuillan, 1998b; Morrow & Weinstein, 1986; Neuman, 1999; Neuman & Celano, 2001). These studies have found that increasing access to books is associated with increased reading behaviour and greater reading proficiency. Krashen (1988: 287) reviewed many studies supporting this notion and concluded that the first step in encouraging free reading is to be sure books and other reading materials are available: ‘It has been shown that more reading takes place when readers have more access to reading material, whether at home or in school’. The availability of books is as important for L2 learners as for their monolingual peers, and because of the increased language demands, perhaps even more so. Several studies have looked at the effects of book access on English-language learners. Elley (1991) evaluated the effects of nine EFL (English as a foreign language) programmes around the world that exposed young L2 learners to large quantities of high-interest picture books. The study found that the use of book floods (exposure to large numbers of high-interest, illustrated books combined with related literacy activities that actively involve the learner in processing the texts) resulted in learning the target language more quickly and developing positive attitudes towards books. A few other studies have looked at the availability of primary-language books for ESL learners. A study by Schon et al. (1982: 20) investigated the question of whether providing a large variety of Spanish books and sixty minutes a week of free reading time would affect the reading abilities and attitudes of 7–9-year-old Hispanic students attending a bilingual programme. The results showed that students gained significantly in Spanish reading skills and in improved reading attitudes. In addition, the majority of beginning-level students, who had never received any formal English-reading instruction, made large gains in their English-reading scores. It was concluded that improvement in reading in English increased as a ‘side-effect consequence of Spanish reading instruction’. The authors suggest that it is ‘reasonable that the initial reading skills of Spanish dominant children should be in Spanish. Their reading skills can improve concurrently with their increased knowledge of English’. Providing primary-language books appears to aid both L1 and L2 literacy, but how available are such books for English-language learners (ELL)? Pucci (1994)
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looked at selected elementary schools and public libraries in the Los Angeles area in order to describe and understand the issues that affect book availability in languages other than English. In the schools she examined, Spanish-speaking students made up from 30% to 98% of the total school population. Her study found that even though some school districts recommended that the number of books in languages other than English be equal in proportion to the number of children receiving reading instruction in that language, all of the libraries examined provided only a limited number of Spanish books. The total library collections of Spanish-language books in these schools ranged from 82 to 1300 books. The number of books per Spanish-speaking child ranged from 0.04 to 5.5 compared to English-language holdings of 2.2 to 25.4 per child. Pucci maintains that the low priority placed by school libraries in acquiring sufficient levels of primary-language books continues to perpetuate the existing inequalities in the education of language minority children. The current study attempts to replicate parts of Pucci’s study by examining the availability of books in languages other than English in a number of elementary school libraries and public libraries in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. It also seeks to determine whether the type of English-language learning programmes provided by the school, i.e. Bilingual, Dual Language, ESL, has any effect on the numbers of these books available in the schools’ libraries. The specific research questions addressed are: (1) How much combined English and heritage language reading material is available to students attending schools with high populations of English-language learners? (2) How much heritage language reading material is available to students in schools with high English-language learning populations? (3) Is there a relationship between a school’s instructional approach for its English language learners and the quantity of heritage language reading material?
Setting Phoenix is a growing city of the south-west United States and results from Census 2000 show that, as with other cities around the country, minority populations are increasing tremendously. Census records show that 34.1% of Phoenix is now Hispanic/Latino. A large number of these are immigrants from Mexico, Central or South American countries and speak Spanish as a native language. In addition, there are smaller numbers of immigrants from western and eastern European, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries as well as representatives of many Native American Indian tribes. Public schools in the Phoenix area respond to the needs of English-language-learning children by offering a variety of language programmes. These programmes teach English while utilising varying amounts of Spanish, the most prominent minority language in use in the state, or Navajo which is mainly used in reservation schools. In ESL (English as a second language) programmes, students attend classes with their English-speaking peers while being given specific English-language instruction designed to teach
Spanish Heritage Language Materials
English proficiency as soon as possible. In these classes neither Spanish nor Navajo is used for instruction. In Bilingual classes, instruction is provided in the native language (Spanish or Navajo) while English is being gradually acquired; over time English becomes the predominant mode of instruction and the native language is discontinued. In Dual Language classes, English-speaking students are combined with Spanish-speaking students and both languages are used equally for instruction with the idea that all students will eventually become proficient in both languages. Each type of programme varies in the amount and focus of native language use and in specific objectives for language learning. Data collection The study involved collecting and analysing data from seven elementary and middle schools located in a large elementary district in the Phoenix area. These seven schools comprise the highest percentages of LEP (limited English proficient) students in the district. Data on school demographics and library information were collected from interviews of school librarians, ESL/Bilingual coordinators/instructors, and school administrators. A list of set questions regarding school enrolment, LEP enrolment, English-language learning programmes, home languages of students, library holdings, and books in languages other than English was composed and asked of each contact at the school during either a telephone or personal interview. All data were collected within a six-week period in the spring of 2001. School librarians were also questioned about the availability of books and school policy for selecting books in languages other than English for the library. In addition, librarians from the two public library branches within the school district that serve the participating seven schools were interviewed with like questions in order to gather similar information about the libraries’ holdings.
Seven schools from this district report an LEP enrolment from 18% to 62%. A majority of these English-language learners are native Spanish speakers. Other languages spoken, in varying amounts at each school, include Bosnian, Romanian, Serbian/Croatian, French, Italian, Arabic, Cambodian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Swahili, Hopi, Apache, Navajo, and many others. In all, the schools reported 31 languages other than English spoken as first languages. Table 1 presents the enrolment data from each of the seven schools shown as total enrollment, percentage LEP enrolment, percentage of Spanish LEP enrolment, and percentage of LEP speakers of languages other than Spanish. The percentage other LEP includes a large number of Serbian/Croatian speakers who make up the second largest language-minority group in the district. Pseudonyms are used to refer to the schools in the study. It should be noted that throughout this study, the percentage of Spanish and other language speakers refers only to the LEP students enrolled in English-language learning programmes. A large number of students with first languages other than English are enrolled in these schools, who, because of higher English proficiency, do not attend English learning classes. The study looks only at those students enrolled as LEP students, although the implications
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Table 1 Enrolment, percentage LEP, and percentage LEP Spanish-speaking for participating schools
School Total Enrolment Hillside 1185 Elementary Sundale 900 Elementary Green 700 Valley Elementary Cactus View 1250 Elementary Willard 1088 Elementary Palmdale 1237 Middle Sky View 1275 Middle % LEP 62% 48% 48% % Spanish LEP 42% 31% 47% % Other LEP 20% 17% 1%
41% 28% 27% 18%
30% 23% 21% 11%
11% 5% 6% 7%
for heritage language development for non-LEP students should not be overlooked. The English-language programmes offered at the schools varied. Four schools reported offering only ESL classes. One offered only Dual Language, and one offered ESL, Bilingual, and Dual Language. Table 2 identifies the language programmes provided along with the percentage of LEP students enroled. Schools with lower numbers of English learners tend to provide only ESL classes. The schools with the highest numbers of LEP students offer bilingual and/or dual language programmes utilising Spanish, which is the predominant minority language in the district.
Table 2 Language programmes offered for LEP students at participating schools
School Hillside Elementary Sundale Elementary Green Valley Elementary Cactus View Elementary Willard Elementary Palmdale Middle Sky View Middle Language programmes Dual Language ESL, Bilingual, Dual Language ESL ESL ESL ESL ESL % LEP 62% 48% 48% 41% 28% 27% 18%
Librarians and media specialists at the seven schools were contacted to determine the extent of the schools’ library collections of books in English and in languages other than English. The findings show that there is a very limited number of books in languages other than English available at each of the schools. All of the non-English books available were Spanish-language books with the exception of one library that reported having a few French dictionaries. Table 3 shows the holdings of library books at each of the seven schools. Table 4 gives a comparison of the percentage of LEP students with L1 Spanish
Spanish Heritage Language Materials
Table 3 School library holdings
School Hillside Elementary Sundale Elementary Green Valley Elementary Cactus View Elementary Willard Elementary Palmdale Middle Skyview Middle Total holdings 15,000 18,606 9,528 13,000 15,000 16,500 7,439 Books in Spanish % Spanish books 328 2.1% 1760 9.4% 107 1.1% 600 4.6% 300 2% 1000 6% 20 0.2%
and the percentage of Spanish books available in the school library. The large disparity between the two is very evident. In order to show the disparity more clearly, Table 4 also breaks down the total library holdings (Table 3) into total books per child and Spanish books per Spanish L1 student. Again this percentage refers only to Spanish L1 students enrolled in LEP programmes. The actual percentages of native Spanish-speaking students in these schools is much higher, some as high as 76% of the total enrolment. It can clearly be seen that the availability of Spanish-language books for Spanish-speaking children is extremely lacking.
Table 4 Percentage of Spanish books and the number of books per child
School Hillside Elementary Sundale Elementary Green Valley Elementary Cactus View Elementary Willard Elementary Palmdale Middle Sky View Middle % Spanish % Spanish Total Spanish books/L1 L1 speakers books books/child Spanish LEP child 42% 2.1% 12.6 0.66 31% 9.4% 20.6 6.2 47% 1.1% 13.6 0.32 30% 4.6% 10.4 1.6 23% 2.0% 13.8 1.2 21% 6.0% 13.3 4.0 11% 0.2% 5.8 0.14
In addition to school information, the two public library branches that service students within this district were contacted to determine their holdings of books. The smaller of the two branches reported total holdings of 58,000 books. Of these, approximately 3000 are Spanish-language books, that is, 5% of the books are in Spanish. Of these, approximately 400–500 are classified as children’s fiction. The librarian at the branch stated that recently the budget for the purchase of Spanish-language books had increased. The second branch reported 160,000 total items but was unable to provide a specific number of books available in languages other than English. The librarian indicated that the number of Spanish-language books is quite small and stated that the library has only a small clientele of Spanish speakers. She seemed to indicate that this was the reason for the small number of books available. A count of shelved books in the children’s section of the library revealed approximately 600 Spanish-language books and the librarian estimated that probably 100 more might be checked out. The total
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number of Spanish language children’s books at both libraries, approximately 1100–1200, is considerably less than the 2100+ Spanish LEP students in the schools serviced by these libraries.
The findings of the study show, similarly to Pucci’s groundbreaking study, that school libraries in the district are seriously lacking in primary-language reading materials for LEP students. Whereas Spanish-speaking LEP students make up from 11% to 42% of students in these schools, the Spanish books available comprise only 0.2% to 9.4% of the libraries’ holdings. This breaks down to 0.14 to 6.2 Spanish books per student compared to 5.8 to 20.6 total books per student. As this study did not consider total Spanish-speaking students enrolled in the schools, the disparity of heritage language materials in these libraries is significantly understated by the data. In addition, none of the libraries reported books in any languages other than Spanish, even though the schools’ student bodies come from many different language backgrounds. One of the purposes of the current study was to determine whether the type of language programmes offered at a school might have an effect on the availability of non-English books. Would schools which support Bilingual and/or Dual language programmes where Spanish is used for instruction have a higher availability of Spanish-language books in their libraries? The findings show only weak support for this. Hillside Elementary School, which offers a Dual language programme where instruction is provided in both English and Spanish with the goal being that children will achieve proficiency in both languages, actually had one of the lowest counts of Spanish books in the library. When questioned about this, the bilingual coordinator explained that even though there were few such books in the library, the bilingual classrooms were full of Spanish-language books to support the children’s literacy development. While this is admirable, the fact that the library does not put equal emphasis on providing for the needs of Spanish-language students at the school is disappointing. Not only does it fail to offer books for English- and Spanish-speaking children who are developing literacy in Spanish, it may actually be undermining the goals of the school’s Dual Language Programme. What kind of message is being sent when the classroom emphasises learning in Spanish, but the school library fails to offer adequate Spanish language materials to support these students’ learning and the only place the children can find interesting reading material is in their own classrooms? Sundale Elementary, which provides ESL, Bilingual, and Dual Language programmes had the largest total holdings of any of the libraries and had the largest percentage of Spanish-language books as well (9.4%). Even so, the numbers are far from proportional to the number of Spanish-speaking LEP students in the school (31%). Pucci’s study (1994) found that the large metropolitan district she studied in California had extensive guidelines recommending that the number of books in languages other than English be equal in proportion to the number of children receiving reading instruction in that language. With no such policy in this Phoenix district, the disparity of Spanish and other heritage language materials is significant.
Spanish Heritage Language Materials
So why is there such a disparity in the availability of books for English-language learners in their primary languages? Perhaps the answer can be understood from various comments of librarians who were contacted in the study. Several library/media specialists stated that there was no school or district-wide policy for purchasing books in languages other than English. Some apologetically said they realised the library was lacking in such books and expressed the desire and intention to acquire more. Some seemed to indicate that the resources for finding books were quite limited. Comments from the public library administrator seemed to indicate that availability was dependent on clientele. Perhaps if Spanish speakers used the library more, she suggested, there would be a greater attempt to provide books for them. Paradoxically, one may wonder why language minority patrons would visit a library that does not already hold books and materials they can use.
Language minority literacy involves many complex issues, including access to heritage language materials, the type and frequency of use of such materials, and the varying literacy practices of language minority communities. While providing greater access to materials is not a one-size-fits-all solution and does not, in itself, guarantee improvement in literacy levels of students, it is one important element in encouraging reading and literate activity in children, adults, and families. By providing easy access to books in a child’s primary language along with an emphasis on activities which encourage literate behaviours, we not only encourage literacy growth in that language but also provide the foundation for increased growth in English literacy as well. Conversely, a lack of availability of interesting heritage language materials may jeopardise first-language literacy development and prohibit or limit the maintenance of heritage languages. As Pucci (1994) noted, school libraries must take greater responsibility in the literacy development of language minority children and make a strong commitment to providing adequate resources for these children. Without a commitment and school or district policy that reflects the needs of the growing number of children who speak languages other than English, our libraries will continue to reflect the inequities of the past. In 1983, Dyer and Robertson-Kozan (1983: 29) discussed the need for libraries to respond to the growing number of Hispanics/Latinos in the US. They suggested that librarians must meet the growing need to service Spanish-speaking children by augmenting ‘woefully inadequate Spanish-language collections with excellent books and non-print materials in Spanish, and with English materials about Hispanic children’. They further admonished, While it is possible to select only the best in English literature for children and assume that they have access to a broad range of materials either at the library or the local book store, this assumption is inappropriate in the case of Hispanic children, whose access may be limited to what the library has on hand. Twenty years later, it appears our resources continue to be ‘woefully inadequate’
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while the need continues to grow not only for Spanish-speaking students, but for other language minority groups as well. Acknowledgement I would like to thank Jeff McQuillan, PhD, Associate Professor of Education at California State University, Fullerton, for his assistance in preparation of this manuscript. Correspondence Any correspondence should be directed to Dawn Lambson, 1270 E.Campus Dr., Tempe, Arizona 85282, USA ([email protected]
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Morrow, L.M. and Weinstein, C.S. (1986) Encouraging voluntary reading: The impact of a literature program on children’s use of library centers. Reading Research Quarterly 21 (3), 330–346. Mortensen, E. (1984) Reading achievement of native Spanish-speaking elementary students in bilingual vs. monolingual programs. The Bilingual Review (11), 36. Neuman, S.B. (1999) Books make a difference: A study of access to literacy. Reading Research Quarterly 34 (3), 286–311. Neuman, S.B. and Celano, D. (2001) Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods. Reading Research Quarterly 36 (1), 8–26. Pucci, S.L. (1994) Supporting Spanish language literacy: Latino children and free reading resources in schools. Bilingual Research Journal 18 (1 & 2), 67–82. Schon, I., Hopkins, K.D. and Davis, W.A. (1982) The effects of books in Spanish and free reading time on Hispanic students’ reading abilities and attitudes. NABE Journal 7, 13–20. Tse, L. (2001) ‘Why Don’t They Learn English?’ Facts and Fallacies in the US Language Debate. New York: Teachers College Press. Veltman, C.J. (1988)The Future of the Spanish Language in the United States. Washington, DC: Hispanic Policy Development Project.