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Reading Children’s and Adolescent Literature in Two University Second Semester Spanish Courses: An Exploratory Classroom Study

Abstract

The goal of this study was to document beliefs and perceptions of second-semester university students concerning the impact of reading children's and adolescent literature in Spanish on their language learning. To accomplish this, the study utilized questionnaires, journals and focus-group interviews in order to understand students' experiences reading children's and adolescent literature in Spanish from their perspective. In addition to measuring the impact of reading children's literature on students' language learning, the study evaluated students' perceptions of the effect of reading children's and adolescent literature on the development of their vocabulary and grammatical knowledge of Spanish and on their understanding of Latino culture as well. The participants were students enrolled in two Spanish 102 courses for which the researcher was the instructor at a major university in the American Southwest. In addition to the regular course curriculum, students in both classes read Me llamo María Isabel [My Name Is María Isabel] (Ada,1993) and two short stories from Béisbol en abril y otros cuentos [Baseball in April and Other Short Stories] (Soto, 1990). Analysis of the questionnaires demonstrated that students in both courses believed their communicative abilities in Spanish, particularly their reading ability, increased throughout the study as a result of reading the children's books. In their journal entries and the focus-group interviews, students indicated that reading children's books in Spanish provided them with opportunities to see the Spanish language applied in new contexts, specifically the vocabulary words and grammatical concepts they were learning via the course textbook. By reading both books, students were able to appreciate several aspects of Latino culture, including difficulties Hispanics encounter when emigrating to the United States, the importance of family relationships and one's name to one's identity, and similarities between Latino culture and American culture.

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Hibbs, B., (2009) “Reading Children’s and Adolescent Literature in Two University Second Semester Spanish Courses: An Exploratory Classroom Study”, Journal of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching 16, p.27-55.

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Brian Hibbs (University of Arizona)

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