Penn State

Carol Scheffner Hammer - Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Ways with Words

Author: Shirley Brice Heath

Book Description:

In her ethnographic work, Heath masterfully demonstrates the interrelationships among culture, language, and parenting through the study of children's development in three communities located in the Piedmont Carolinas. "Trackton", a rural working-class, African American community and "Roadville", a rural working-class white community, hold vastly different beliefs about how one supports a child's development and have greatly different oral and literate traditions. The culture, language and parenting styles of both of these communities do not mesh with the styles and beliefs of the families living in the urban area where the Trackton and Roadville children attend school. Heath documents how this mismatch between home and school cultures places children from Trackton and Roadville at risk for academic failure and how children's abilities can be fostered when aspects of their culture are integrated into the academic setting.

Heath's book serves as a framework for my research and teaching. The primary goal of my research is to understand the relationships among cultural beliefs, language and parenting in Latino and African American communities and to develop interventions that build on cultural practices and foster children's success in school. One of my main teaching goals is to help students understand of the relationships among culture, language and parenting and to enable them to develop culturally appropriate interventions for the children and families that they serve.


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