This invite-only symposium was sponsored by Erikson Institute’s Herr Research Center for Children and Social Policy.

About the symposium

Our understanding of the potential impact that supporting a child’s home language has on literacy and school achievement has grown considerably in recent years. A great deal of attention has also been focused on the implications that speaking a non-standard English dialect has on academic success.

While our knowledge of the relationship between bilingualism, bidialectism, and school performance has increased, there have been few opportunities to examine the similarities between these experiences, particularly in relation to a child’s performance during the first years of formal schooling.

This symposium is designed to broaden the customary focus of such conversations to include the common elements shared by children whose home language is either one other than English or is a non-standard dialect of English. Experts will share information about current research and innovative approaches and strategies, and will lead discussions about implications for policy and practice in Illinois.

Featured presenters

Walt Wolfram

Walt Wolfram is a William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor at North Carolina State University, where he also directs the North Carolina Language and Life Project. He has pioneered research on social and ethnic dialects since the 1960s and published more than 20 books and over 300 articles on socio-ethnic and regional varieties.

Sylvia Sánchez

Sylvia Sánchez is an associate professor and co-coordinator of the UTEEM Early Childhood Program in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. The program has received national attention as a highly effective model for preparing teacher candidates to work with culturally, linguistically, and ability-diverse young children and their families in community settings.

Presentations and resources

To continue the conversation, below are the PowerPoint presentations and additional resources from the featured presenters, as well as materials provided by Reyna Hernandez at the Illinois State Board of Education.

Walt Wolfram

Sylvia Sánchez

Reyna Hernandez

This event was made possible due to generous support from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.