Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Rhonda Jeffries


In U.S. schools, the academic needs of many African American students are not being adequately met. This alarming trend has prompted many educators to recognize the need to make changes in their knowledge base and instructional practices in order to better serve African American students. Culturally relevant pedagogy--a multifaceted approach to teaching that utilizes students’ cultural experiences to facilitate cultural competence, social justice, and student learning-has been identified as a method that may create more positive learning outcomes among African American students and diverse learners.

This study investigated the impact of culturally relevant pedagogy on African American students’ attitudes towards reading in a pre-kindergarten classroom. The problem of practice for this study addressed the urgent need for educators to focus on creating classroom opportunities that will better serve African American students and provide them with the skills and confidence to develop more positive attitudes toward reading early in life. For the purposes of this study, students’ (N=18) attitudes toward reading were measured using three parameters: (a) students’ responses to a pre- and poststudent attitude toward reading survey (b) students’ responses to individual semistructured interviews and (c) teacher-researcher observations ascertaining students’ in class reading behaviors, patterns, and levels of engagement. The data collection and observation process took place over a 6-week period at an urban early learning center in Atlanta, GA. Data were collected via student observations and interviews, lead teacher interviews, and a pre-and post-reading attitude survey. The results of the analysis of the data indicated that many students reported experiencing enhanced positive attitudes toward reading after exposure to six weeks of culturally relevant pedagogical practices. Furthermore, common themes that emerged once culturally relevant pedagogy was introduced to students included: enhanced student engagement, enhanced student learning, and increased student awareness of social justice issues. Additional findings for this study revealed that ongoing professional development and professional learning communities focused on strategies to help teachers incorporate culturally relevant pedagogy into the reading curriculum might prove to be highly beneficial for many educators.


© 2020, Janet Brantley