Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



The purpose of this study was to examine the relation between children’s use of nonmainstream dialect and their emerging reading ability. The data were from 79 kindergarteners; 39 were AA and 40 were non-AA; 38 were male and 41 were female. All children presented with varying language abilities and dialect densities, as measured by the DELV-ST. Dialect densities ranged from Mainstream American English (MAE), some variation of MAE, and strong variations of MAE. The children’s reading abilities were measured by the DIBELS, which was administered at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. Preliminary results showed that children’s mean DIBELS scores significantly increased over time. In addition, their mean reading scores were above benchmark cutoff scores at all testing sessions, indicating that on average, the nonmainstream English-speaking kindergarteners were not at risk for reading failure. When analyzed by race and gender, a main effect was found for race but not gender. Given this, analyses were completed on the AA and non-AA children separately to examine the relationship between the children’s dialect ratings and their emerging reading abilities. For both the AA and non-AA groups, their children’s rates of nonmainstream dialect density were related to their DIBELS scores. This finding was documented in two ways. First, for both races, the children who earned low DELV-ST ratings produced higher DIBELS scores than those who earned moderate and high DELV-ST scores. Second, for both races, there was a negative correlation between the children’s DELV-ST ratings and their DIBELS scores. Nevertheless, an item analysis of the GFTA suggested minimal overlap between the children’s nonmainstream English productions and the target sounds included within the items of the DIBELS. Together these findings suggest that children’s nonmainstream dialect use negatively relates to their reading abilities, and this negative relationship exists for both AA and non-AA children. This negative relationship also exits in spite of finding minimal overlap between the children’s nonmainstream sound productions and the target sounds included within the items on the DIBELS.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Oetting, Janna B.