Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies


College of Education

First Advisor

Diane DeFord


This dissertation examines the experiences of three Latino emergent bilingual children and their Reading Recovery teacher as they engaged in Reading Recovery lessons offered in English with the support of Spanish. The negative impact of cultural bias and expectations of assimilation into English has implications for needed innovations in classroom literacy practices,as well as ways to address teachers' inexperience in teaching culturally and linguistically different students. This case study sought to gain a better understanding of the impact of students’ native languages and aspects of cultural diversity that influenced reading and writing instruction, as well as the instructional methods and materials that could be used in the lessons that would best support these students’ emerging bilingualism. It also explored how the involvement of students’ families contributed to students’ use of home and school languages and cultural experiences within school. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected over a period of eight months. The students’ confidence and motivation within the reading and writing instruction improved greatly with the encouragement of the use of their home languages and cultural experiences within Reading Recovery lessons. All three students showed gains in speaking, reading, and writing in both their home and school languages. They made solid and useful connections between the languages and the texts, and drew upon their cultural experiences, which strengthened their reading and writing strategies in both languages. The support of their languages and instructional methods motivated the students to read and write more within lessons, in their classrooms, and at home.

Involving the children’s families in lessons and in activities at school, and supporting their use of reading and writing at home helped build relationships among the participants, families, and school faculty. This contributed to the beginnings of new understandings on the part of the school’s teachers and administration. This study suggested the need for students to have the space to use their home languages and cultural experiences in school. In addition, the results suggested ways that teachers and administrators could include the knowledge of emergent bilingual families within the life of the school to further expand all students’ learning and promote social justice in the classroom setting.


© 2016, Sarah Catto