Teaching Remedial English to Navajo Students

Problems with Reading


  • Yi-Wen Huang University of New Mexico-Gallup


reading, Navajo, Navajo culture, oral tradition


I have been teaching English composition for almost 9 years at a 2-year branch campus near the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. The composition of my students is mostly Navajo with some Hispanics, Zuni, and Caucasian. Based on my observation, the majority of my students in remedial English composition classes had difficulties in reading comprehension. Several of my students had problems reading the vocabulary, and they did not understand what they read. The majority of the students did not discuss the readings during group discussions. Several of my students resisted doing library research as part of the assignment. A few students in each class did not purchase or could not afford the textbook. This made me explore the reasons behind this problem in a hope to better help my students improve their reading comprehension. Previous literature on Navajo students’ reading comprehension were limited. Based on several pieces of previous literature (e.g., Conn; Hartle-Schutte; Janzen; Miller and Johnson; Rosier and Farella; Spolsky; Vorih and Rosier; Wieczkiewicz), Navajo students’ reading levels were below the national average, which could be related to their low accessibility to literacy and poor living conditions on or near the reservation. Adequate instructions associated with Navajo culture and tradition are recommended and provided at educational institutions to provide suitable instructions to help Navajo students in reading.

Author Biography

Yi-Wen Huang, University of New Mexico-Gallup

Yi-Wen Huang is an associate professor of English and Linguistics at University of New Mexico-Gallup, USA. Her research interests include language anxiety, writing apprehension, second language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and Native American literacies.