The relationship of immigrant status to perceptions of reading and reading literacy among young Black students: A test of the Cultural -Ecological Theory of School Performance

Shelby G Gilbert, Florida International University


This study tests Ogbu and Simons' Cultural-Ecological Theory of School Performance using data from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study of 2001 (PIRLS), a large-scale international survey and reading assessment involving fourth grade students from 35 countries, including the United States. This theory argues that Black immigrant students outperform their non-immigrant counterparts, academically, and that achievement differences are attributed to stronger educational commitment in Black immigrant families. Four hypotheses are formulated to test this theory: Black immigrant students have (a) more receptive attitudes toward reading; (b) a more positive reading self-concept; and (c) a higher level of reading literacy. Furthermore, (d) the relationship of immigrant status to reading perceptions and literacy persists after including selected predictors. These hypotheses are tested separately for girls and boys, while also examining immigrant students' generational status (i.e., foreign-born or second-generation). PIRLS data from a subset of Black students (N=525) in the larger U.S. sample of 3,763 are analyzed to test the hypotheses, using analysis of variance, correlation and multiple regression techniques. Findings reveal that hypotheses a and b are not confirmed (contradicting the Cultural-Ecological Theory) and c and d are partially supported (lending partial support to the theory). Specifically, immigrant and non-immigrant students did not differ in attitudes toward reading or reading self-concept; second-generation immigrant boys outperformed both non-immigrant and foreign-born immigrant boys in reading literacy, but no differences were found among girls; and, while being second-generation immigrant had a relatively stronger relationship to reading literacy for boys, among girls, selected socio-cultural predictors, number of books in the home and length of U.S. residence, had relatively stronger relationship to reading self-concept than did immigrant status. This study, therefore, indicates that future research employing the Cultural-Ecological Theory should: (a) take gender and generational status into account (b) identify additional socio-cultural predictors of Black children's academic perceptions and performance; and (c) continue to build on this body of evidence-based knowledge to better inform educational policy and school personnel in addressing needs of all children.

Subject Area

Black studies|Literacy|Reading instruction|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Gilbert, Shelby G, "The relationship of immigrant status to perceptions of reading and reading literacy among young Black students: A test of the Cultural -Ecological Theory of School Performance" (2008). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3319003.