Reading and language problems of Israeli children as related to ethnic background

The purpose of this project was to investigate the relationship between ethnic background and the high incidence of language and reading disabled children in special programs or schools in Israel today. Classes for the Learning Disabled and Emotionally Disturbed children were visited throughout Israel. An attempt was made to uncover the reasons for the overwhelming number of Jewish children from Oriental backgrounds in special classes in Israel as compared to the much smaller number of Ashkenazic or European influenced children of the same age groups. The following hypotheses were proposed: 1) Differences exist in the acquisition of language and the ability to read between children born of Oriental parents and children of European parents; 2) These differences stem in part from different child rearing practices which are related to the varying cultural traditions of the two groups; 3) further differences are the result of inadequate preparation of teachers to effectively deal with children from differing cultural backgrounds, and 4) the disparity in learning abilities between European and Oriental Jewish children can be substantiated by the large number of the latter in special classes for Learning Disabled and Emotionally Disturbed children. It was further proposed that the differences in rate of language an reading acquisition among children of Oriental background were influenced highly by the following factors: a) parents are less concerned with the importance of education in terms of future achievement of children, particularly girls; b) child rearing practices focus little or no attention on verbal communication between parent and child, and parents are not effective models of language; c) limited availability and quality of educational guidance on the part of parents; d) lack of manipulatives and reading materials in the household, and e) Oriental Jews tend to have very large families and older children lack individual attention. Observations made by the investigator during visitations supported all of these hypotheses. Finally, this study focused on what is currently being done in the field of special education in Israel to help culturally deprived children to improve their language and reading abilities.