What up? Dis Book!

Yo! Yes?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty committed to discussing race relations with children.  Yo! Yes? Is another entry point by which I attempt to pull this off.  It also affirms so called “non-standard” English.  (More on that at the bottom).

But even if you could decontextualize the racial and linguistic elements in this story (as if that was possible), it’s well worth the read.

Sometimes an entire dialog can be reduced to one and two word sentence exchanges. Chris Raschka tells an entire story through these nearly monosyllabic exchanges.  It’s beautiful.  It’s different.  It’s so worth reading.

About “non-standard” English : No one holds the “Master version” of English.

Sometimes I hear teachers giving their students grief for speaking AAVE (African American Vernacular English) as if it is “wrong” and the teacher has the “Gold Standard Version”.  But that notion doesn’t have a linguistic leg to stand on.

English is in constant evolution. It varies over time; Shakespeare’s English is hardly like “our” English.  It’s predecessor (Saxon English) is a quantum leap away.

It varies based on location; English in Australia, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the U.S. are all measurably different. Even within the U.S. you have distinct “accents” regionally: Boston, the South, the Midwest,..  Going one step further, different groups have their own variety of English.  Some of the better known examples are AAVE, Boston Italian, Surfer and Yooper (Upper Peninsula of Michigan).

This isn’t to say that one doesn’t hear linguistic error within a variety of English. (Young children especially make hilarious errors.) But that’s not normally what I see get “corrected” in school.  What is “corrected” is not linguistic error.  It’s linguistic variation; and variation doesn’t need correction.

So who’s “standard”?  It really depends are where you are in time and space.  No one has “the goods” all to themselves.

If you are totally into this sort of thing, Dialects in Schools and Communities and Children Language and Literacy are good places to start.

Dialects in Schools and Communities                                   Children Language and Literacy

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