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This book gives the lie to the widespread tion that mothers who are themselves illiterate in English cant help their children to learn to read and write English. They can! Dr Blackledge's research into Bangladeshi families in Birmingham reveals that the children's teachers perceive parents who cant read or write English as illiterate and unable to help their children with literacy learning at home, and that the parents internalise their powerlessness to do so. Whereas these same parents have real power in their own community and energetically pursue their children's literacy in the home language, in which they are themselves highly competent. The stereotypical views teachers hold of such parents leads to discriminatory practices. They send home English reading books of an unsuitable level, for instance, and expect older siblings to act as interpreters in discussions with these parents about their children's school experience and learning. But as soon as the parents' capacities to help their children are recognized and they longer feel disempowered, their children's progress accelerates dramatically. The author contends that if bright and ambitious bilingual children are to receive real equality of treatment in schools, this subtle disempowerment by schools of the least powerful parents must be stopped.
Adrian Blackledge is Senior Lecturer in English at Westhill College of Higher Education.