The authors investigated the association between participation in Nations in Neighborhoods (NiN), a program of folk and traditional arts instruction, and achievement in English language arts for a sample of low-income elementary school students, many of whom were recent immigrants and English language learners. The program drew on the core practices of traditional and folk arts—sociocritical literacies that bridge home and school, multi-modal instruction, apprenticeship learning, and communal effort—to provide students with the confidence and strategies of accomplished learners. English language arts achievement was assessed using a standardized state proficiency exam.
Students who participated in the program received significantly higher overall scores on the exam after controlling for gender, ethnicity, English language learner, and special education classifications. These findings suggest that an arts education program featuring folk and traditional arts engages students in practices that have measurable effects on their literacy development.