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Barton, David. Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written Language. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 1994.
An ecological metaphor for literacy ("a set of social practices associated with particular symbol systems and their related technologies") allows social, psychological, and historical approaches to literacy studies to be brought together. In an ecological model, literacy is practices and events, rather than formal learning, and develops from a constructivist theory of language. Readers are introduced to key terms and definitions, to important research (Scribner and Cole; Heath; Street), to the relation of spoken and written language, and to writing systems and other notations. Other chapters cover the development of printing, emergent literacy, the literary view of literacy, school practices, issues in adult literacy, and global literacy.
Barton, David and Mary Hamilton. Local Literacies: Reading and Writing in One Community. New York: Routledge, 1998.
A description and investigation of literacy in one local community of Lancaster, England, presented as a microcosm of change and continuity in literacy practices. Sixty-five people in the neighborhood of Springside were interviewed, with twelve selected for the case studies; data collection included a collaborative ethnography stage. Four people are profiled in-depth in terms of their literacy life and history with such topics as education, getting things done in the community, living a local life, and leisure and pleasure. As a set of social practices inferred from events that are mediated by written texts, literacy may serve multiple functions in any given activity; for example, literacy acts as evidence, display, threat, and/or ritual, and people can be incorporated into the literacy practices of others without reading or writing a single word. Despite wide diversity of literacies in the home, there was also coherence in the diversity; broad patternings included the gendering of home practices; the intertwining of literacy and numeracy practices; and the significance of multilingual experience of literacy. Literacies are used for collective goals but also to make sense of events in individuals' lives. Over 50 "asides" illustrate cooking literacy, learning at work, family traditions of reading, dealing with dyslexia, doing the accounts, helping with the homework, computers in the home, and others.
Bernstein, Basil. Class, Codes, and Control. New York: Schocken, 1975.
School writing and speaking tasks call for the use of the elaborated code—a formal way of using language that explicitly identifies context and carefully fills in transitions and details for an anonymous reader. Most everyday speech, however, calls only for the restricted code, which is highly context dependent. Socioeconomic class tends to determine whether children learn how to use the elaborated code at home, hence whether they can readily perform the kind of linguistic tasks assigned and expected at school. Working-class children experience social relations in which elaborated code use is rare, unlike middle-class children, who can distinguish the codes and when to use them. Thus, working-class children are often judged to be stupid when they only lack access to school-like linguistic forms.
Bleich, David. The Double Perspective: Language, Literacy and Social Relations. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988.
We learn how to communicate by internalizing the double perspective of speaker and interlocutor first experienced as small children in dialogue with our parents. Effective adult communication is never an assertion of will but part of an oscillation between socially constructed pairs of opposing concepts. In teaching, a productive oscillation is needed between the classroom, in which subjective expression and collaboration are encouraged, and the academy, which valorizes "objective" scholarship produced by "independent" thought. In this as in other pairs of perspectives, one term must not be privileged: A double perspective is to be maintained. Bleich gives many examples of assignments and student work to illustrate his pedagogy.
Bloome, David, ed. Classrooms and Literacy. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1989.
Eleven essays explore the idea that literacy education is a function of the curriculum as a whole and the school as a social institution. Includes David Bloome, "Beyond Access: An Ethnographic Study of Reading and Writing in a Seventh Grade Classroom"; Catherine Snow et al., "Giving Formal Definitions: An Oral Language Correlate of School Literacy"; Thomas Eisemon and Theresa Rogers, "The Acquisition of Literacy in Religious and Secular Schools"; Jay Lemke, "Social Semiotics: A New Model for Literacy Education"; and Patricia Stock and Jay Robinson, "Literacy as Conversation: Classroom Talk as Text Building."
Brandt, Deborah. "Accumulating Literacy: Writing and Learning to Write in the Twentieth Century." College English 57.6 (October 1995): 649–68.
Literacy practices in the twentieth century expanded both vertically and horizontally—as a result of rising levels of formal schooling, and "residual" materials and practices that get passed on, transformed, or assimilated. Interview participants from across four generations relate their early childhood experiences with literacy, schooling or training, and their uses and inheritances of language as adult writers. Two extended examples illustrate how individuals transform or adapt "residual literacy"—that is, practices and materials from earlier times "that linger at the scenes of contemporary literacy learning." As technologies and documentary practices evolve, old forms don't disappear but are transformed: a son gives his mother his used computer, and she passes on her manual typewriter to her grandchildren to play with; or a son draws upon his father's sermons in a C.M.E. church to write his own administrative and professional texts. Literacy needs to be defined in light of the "piling up" of artifacts and the ubiquity of print.
Brandt, Deborah. Literacy as Involvement: The Acts of Writers, Readers, and Texts. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1990.
The oral-literate dichotomy and the accompanying assumption that text literacy requires the ability to manage decontextualized language are in error. Rather, all forms of literacy are deeply context-bound, and reading and writing are forms of social interaction and intersubjectivity.
Chiseri-Strater, Elizabeth. Academic Literacies: The Public and Private Discourse of University Students. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 1991.
Detailed case studies of two college writers reveal linguistic resources that are not always recognized by the university. The academy favors lecture-recitation and combative debate formats that suited one of the students, while the other found less agonistic ways of communicating and learning. Both students used nonverbal expression, like visual images and dance, as aids to learning, even though these media were rarely valued in coursework. The development of multiple literacies can be fostered by adopting collaborative learning strategies and writing assignments that breach the traditional separation between public knowledge and private life.
Cook-Gumperz, Jenny. The Social Construction of Literacy. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986.
Ten essays investigate the settings in which and means by which literacy is acquired. Includes Jenny Cook-Gumperz, "Literacy and Schooling: An Unchanging Equation?"; John Gumperz, "Interactional Sociolinguistics in the Study of Schooling"; Gordon Wells, "The Language Experience of Five-Year-Old Children at Home and at School"; James Collins, "Differential Instruction in Reading Groups"; and Herbert Simons and Sandra Murphy, "Spoken Language Strategies and Reading Acquisition."
Cushman, Ellen. The Struggle and the Tools: Oral and Literate Strategies in an Inner City Community. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1998.
In daily struggles with public service agencies, inner-city residents demonstrate sophisticated linguistic strategizing and draw upon a wide variety of literacy tools. Faced with eviction, for example, residents collaborated on ways to find housing, including rehearsing conversations and sharing years of experiences with racism and bureaucracy. Through a cyclic process of learning, deploying, and assessing their oral and literate strategies for interactions with gatekeepers, the subjects of this study practiced language transfer, code-switching, and metadiscourse. Based on over three years of fieldwork, these findings challenge the notion of "illiteracy" as well as the concept of false consciousness. Cushman advocates an activist methodology and more studies of extracurricular literacies.
Daniell, Beth. "Against the Great Leap Theory of Literacy." PRE/TEXT 7 (Fall–Winter 1986): 181–93.
Literacy scholarship is divided into two camps, those who embrace and those who oppose the Great Leap theory. This theory holds that literacy shifts a culture's perception from holistic to analytic. It is advanced by Eric Havelock , Walter Ong, S.J. [274, 275], and Thomas Farrell . But the conflation of thought itself with the qualities of formal discourse prejudices the characterization of oral communities, equating Western forms of academic thinking with human intelligence. The theory also permits broad generalization about language competence and cognitive ability from small language samples. Many researchers oppose this theory, having found that a continuum from oral to literate or a complex intermixing of these forms of discourse more accurately describes the language use of particular societies.
Daniell, Beth. "Narratives of Literacy: Connecting Composition to Culture." CCC 50.3 (February 1999): 393–410.
Lyotard's theory of grand narratives and little narratives helps to illustrate a number of issues in the relationship of literacy and composition. The "Literacy for Liberation Narrative," for example, largely informed by Freire, attempts to refute the "Great Leap Narrative," but in our tendency to buy into the narrative of literacy heroism, composition scholars have largely misunderstood Freire's Catholic and spiritual vision of education. Recent studies tend to be little narratives of literacy, most of which argue that literacy cannot be neatly linked to either freedom or oppression. The little narratives connect composition to culture by studying writing in everyday life and by representing the ideological contradictions of literacy.
DeStigter, Todd. "The Tesoros Literacy Project: An Experiment in Democratic Communities." Research in the Teaching of English 32 (February 1998): 10–42.
A ten-week collaboration between ESL (Latino) students and at-risk Anglo students put into practice John Dewey's ideas about the importance of relationships to democratic communities. This project attempts to resolve, not just to critique, the inequities in the educational environment of Addison High, where students collaborated weekly on reading and writing projects and, in the process, established affective relationships and illustrated the importance of valuing difference.
See: Janet Carey Eldred and Peter Mortensen, "Reading Literacy Narratives" .
Farrell, Thomas J. "I.Q. and Standard English." CCC 34 (December 1983): 470–84.
There is no genetic cause for black children's persistently lower scores on I.Q. tests. Black English communities, however, exhibit many patterns of oral, rather than literate, language use. If I.Q. tests measure cognitive abilities valued by society, and if the acquisition of literacy confers these abilities, the low I.Q. scores of black children can be attributed to their orality—their ignorance of Standard English, which is shaped by literacy. Thus, their cognitive abilities may be enhanced by teaching them to speak and write Standard English. See also "Responses to Thomas J. Farrell, 'I.Q. and Standard English,'" CCC 35 (December 1984): 455–77.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Seabury, 1968.
Pedagogy can be liberating if it truly enables the oppressed to name the world for themselves rather than merely imposing the knowledge of the dominant group. The banking approach to education, in which the teacher knows, thinks, speaks, and disciplines, treats people as adaptable and manipulable rather than as agents in the world with the power to create and transform. Liberating education consists of acts of cognition, not transfers of information. Teaching from generative themes drawn from the lives of the students can lead to critical consciousness as the students come to understand the situation in which they live, gain the power to name it, and see the possibility of changing it themselves.
Freire, Paulo, and Donaldo Macedo. Literacy: Reading the Word and the World. South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin and Garvey, 1987.
Literacy is a form of cultural politics, in the United States as elsewhere. It may reproduce the existing social formation or promote emancipatory change. Critical literacy encourages cultural production rather than reproduction, enabling people to tell their own stories about their individual and collective experience.
Gere, Anne Ruggles. "Kitchen Table and Rented Rooms: The Extracurriculum of Composition." CCC 45.1 (February 1994):
In urban centers and small farming communities, countless writers gather regularly in self-sponsored workshops to share their writing. Participants gain confidence, hone their craft, contribute positive criticism, and create opportunities for performance and publication. These writing groups and the writing development they encourage are not accounted for in histories of composition studies, characteristically neglectful of extracurricular literary clubs and other literacy practices outside of formal education. Gere identifies self-help guides for writers, many used by groups that developed across gender, class, and racial lines: there were clubs for white women, African American women, and working-class women—all of which contributed to and sustained composition's extracurriculum. Motivated by desire, writers who participate in these groups remind composition teachers that "an unswerving concentration on professionalism" blinds us to the cultural work that writing accomplishes. Writers often write for the love of it, to enact power, and to perform.
Graff, Harvey. The Labyrinths of Literacy: Reflections on Literacy Past and Present. Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1995.
Sixteen previously published essays by Graff exploring the history of literacy and the implications of that history. Present-day conceptions of literacy are historically grounded, reflecting the oversimple view of literacy as the key to civilization (dominant until quite recently) yet serving as the basis of a more complex understanding of literacy at present. The connection between literacy and social development was based on untested assumptions and ideological predispositions: Literacy was mistaken for a neutral technology; alphabetic literacy was extolled, to the exclusion of other significant literacies; a false dichotomy was discerned between literacy and orality; and a hierarchy that irrevocably harmed individuals and societies perceived as illiterate was erected. Critical theory and social history have worked to test and correct these conceptions, revealing a far more complex understanding of the nature and types of literacy, the ways that literacies are learned and used, the functions of literacy in communities, and the policies that have been employed to foster—or impede—literacy.
Graff, Harvey J. The Legacies of Literacy: Continuities and Contradictions in Western Culture and Society. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1987.
Graff reviews classical and medieval education but concentrates on the advent of print literacy in the Renaissance, exploring its consequences for popular schooling in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe and America. He examines literacy in the social context to determine who achieves literacy, what kind of literacy is achieved, and what purposes literacy serves.
Havelock, Eric. Preface to Plato. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 1963.
Plato's attack on poetry was in fact an attack on the use of oral poetry as the archive of Greek culture and the means of cultural instruction. Poetry distorts truth, Plato charges, making it entirely inappropriate for this task. Behind this attack is a rejection of oral forms of cultural preservation and transmission. In nonliterate societies, oral literature is the only means of preserving and handing on collective knowledge. Oral literature is didactic, teaching accepted beliefs and practices. Poetic form is an aid to memorization. Writing, which developed between the time of Homer and Plato, changes all of this by allowing cultural information to be stored more permanently and transmitted more reliably. Poetic form is no longer necessary, as a result of which, propositional forms, including logic, developed. The effect was a cognitive revolution based on alphabetic literacy, changing fundamentally the way that people thought.
Heath, Shirley Brice. Ways with Words: Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983.
Research in three Carolina communities reveals socially conditioned patterns of oral and written language use, but no clear distinctions between literate and oral or preliterate groups.
Hirsch, E. D. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. Expanded ed. New York: Vintage, 1988.
Effective communication requires not only encoding and decoding skills—technical literacy—but also background knowledge shared among interlocutors—cultural literacy. Effective communication in a democracy requires a shared national culture. The contents of this culture, in the United States, have been largely determined by history: knowledge that has traditionally been important continues to be so for that very reason. Thus the cultural knowledge of dominant groups tends to predominate. Nevertheless, this cultural knowledge need not be elitist if it is taught to everyone in school and becomes the property of all. Curriculum planning should attend to conveying this cultural literacy. Includes an appendix listing several hundred names, dates, and ideas put forward as the basis of American cultural literacy.
Horsman, Jennifer. Something in My Mind besides the Everyday: Women and Literacy. Toronto: Women's Press, 1990.
Literacy programs often assume that their clients are completely illiterate and even unintelligent, that traditional school literacy is what they need, and that any failure to complete the program is owing to the individual's lack of motivation. Interviews with twenty-three women enrolled in literacy programs and ten workers in the programs suggest, to the contrary, that learners have varied abilities and a variety of personal and career goals related to literacy. They want to end their dependence on social-service agencies. They are often hampered in their efforts by the complex demands of life in disadvantaged socioeconomic settings and by the debilitating links between many literacy programs and the very social agencies the students wish to escape. Literacy programs need to listen more to learners' self-definitions of their needs and to encourage the use of literacy for social criticism.
Kintgen, Eugene R., Barry M. Kroll, and Mike Rose, eds. Perspectives on Literacy. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1988.
Twenty-eight major essays on the theory, history, and pedagogical and social implications of literacy. Essays include Jack Goody and Ian Watt, "The Consequences of Literacy"; Walter J. Ong, S.J., "Some Psychodynamics of Orality"; Sylvia Scribner and Michael Cole, "Unpackaging Literacy"; Harvey J. Graff, "The Legacies of Literacy"; Eric A. Havelock, "The Coming of Literate Communication to Western Culture"; David R. Olson, "From Utterance to Text"; John U. Ogbu, "Literacy and Schooling in Subordinate Cultures"; Yetta Goodman, "The Development of Initial Literacy"; Shirley Brice Heath, "Protean Shapes in Literacy Events"; Paulo Freire, "The Adult Literacy Process as Cultural Action for Freedom"; Carl Kaestle, "The History of Literacy and the History of Readers"; Jay Robinson, "The Social Context of Literacy"; David Bartholomae, "Inventing the University" ; Kyle Fiore and Nan Elsasser, "'Strangers No More': A Liberatory Literacy Curriculum" ; and William Diehl and Larry Mikulecky, "The Nature of Reading at Work."
Knoblauch, C. H., and Lil Brannon. Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann-Boynton/Cook, 1993.
Critical teaching aims to prepare students to live comfortably with cultural diversity and to work actively for social and economic justice. These goals have been hampered by the scare tactics of those who, like Dinesh D'Souza, deride political correctness but have much more power than those they warn against. Critical teaching is also thwarted by limiting models of literacy: the functionalist model, emphasizing supposedly practical skills; the cultural-literacy model, inculcating Western culture; and the expressivist model, celebrating personal growth while disguising political realities. A preferable model is critical literacy, which, as Paulo Freire argues, empowers students to name the inequities in their world and work to change them.
Lee, Carol D. and Peter Smagorinsky, eds. Vygotskian Perspectives on Literacy Research: Constructing Meaning through Collaborative Inquiry. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.
Central tenets of Vygotsky's theory have influenced current debates in literacy research and in activity theory; the centrality of language and the inherently social nature of literacy learning and practice have provided the basis for modern analysis, and Vygotsky's ideas have also been modified through the studies that draw on them. Eleven chapters, following an introduction by the editors, include the following: James V. Wertsch, "Vygotsky's Two Minds on the Nature of Meaning"; LeeAnn G. Putney, et al., "Consequential Progressions: Exploring Collective-Individual Development in a Bilingual Classroom"; Kris D. Gutierrez and Lynda D. Stone, "Synchronic and Diachronic Dimensions of Social Practice: An Emerging Methodology for Cultural-Historical Perspectives on Literacy Learning"; Carol D. Lee, "Signifying in the Zone of Proximal Development"; Arnetha F. Ball, "Teacher's Developing Philosophies on Literacy and their Use in Urban Schools: A Vygotskian Perspective on Internal Activity and Teacher Change"; Luis C. Moll, "Inspired by Vygotsky: Ethnographic Experiments in Education."
Lunsford, Andrea A., Helene Moglen, and James Slevin, eds. The Right to Literacy. New York: MLA, 1990.
Twenty-nine compact essays address the public and professional issue of literacy, the literacy problems of particular social groups, and political and pedagogical concerns. Essays include Theodore Sizer, "Public Literacy: Puzzlements of a High School Watcher"; Jacqueline Jones Royster, "Perspectives on the Intellectual Tradition of Black Women Writers"; James Moffett, "Censorship and Spiritual Education"; Deborah Brandt, "Literacy and Knowledge"; Glynda Hull and Mike Rose, "Toward a Social-Cognitive Understanding of Problematic Reading and Writing"; and Shirley Brice Heath, "The Fourth Vision: Literate Language at Work."
Macedo, Donaldo. Literacies of Power: What Americans Are Not Allowed to Know. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.
Drills in discrete skills give people sufficient literacy to decode but not to demystify government propaganda. Adding a cultural-literacy component to education perpetuates cultural genocide on those who do not belong to the majority culture, if the model favors Western culture, as does E. D. Hirsch's. Following Paulo Freire, we should encourage multilingual, multicultural literacy education in order to effect change toward social justice. Macedo testifies to the value of such education from personal experience.
Moss, Beverly J. Literacy across Communities. Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton, 1994.
Five of the six essays in this collection study nonacademic literacy practices in mainstream communities: Marcia Farr, "En Los Dos Idiomas: Literacy Practices among Chicano Mexicanos"; Gail Weinstein-Shr, "From Mountaintops to City Streets: Literacy in Philadelphia's Hmong Community"; Daniel McLaughlin, "Toward a Dialogical Understanding of Literacy: The Case of Navajo Print"; Jabari Mahiri, "Reading Rites and Sports: Motivation for Adaptive Literacy of Young African-American Males"; and Beverly Moss, "Creating a Community: Literacy Events in African-American Churches." In the final essay, "World Travelling: Enlarging Our Understanding of Nonmainstream Literacies," Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater comments on the preceding studies and recommends, following them, that teachers should function as coaches, not authority figures; that classrooms should be collaborative learning communities; and that school-home communication should become bidirectional.
Murray, Denise E., ed. Diversity as Resource: Redefining Cultural Literacy. Alexandria, Va.: TESOL, 1992.
Twelve essays illustrate and develop an approach to multicultural literacy that explicitly answers E. D. Hirsch's program for a primarily Western common culture in the United States. Essays include Keith Walters, "Whose Culture? Whose Literacy?"; Anna Soter, "Whose Shared Assumptions? Making the Implicit Explicit"; Denise Murray, Patricia Nichols, and Allison Hecht, "Identifying the Languages and Cultures of Our Students"; Evelyn Baker Dandy, "Sensitizing Teachers to Cultural Differences: An African American Perspective"; Olga Vasquez, "A Mexicano Perspective: Reading the World in a Multicultural Setting"; Ann Johns, "Toward Developing a Cultural Repertoire: A Case Study of a Lao College Freshman"; Daniel McLaughlin, "Power and the Politics of Knowledge: Transformative Schooling for Minority Language Learners"; and Patricia Nichols, "Language in the Attic: Claiming Our Linguistic Heritage."
Writing is essential for analytic, linear, and sequential thought, in contrast to speech, which is "rhapsodic"—loosely constructed of clichŽs, proverbs, and other "loci" (topoi). Students, particularly those from highly oral cultural communities, must move from the oral to the written form of thought; their writing often has the loose structure of conversation. It can be helpful to teach students about the contrast between oral and written thought, but it is essential for writing teachers to know about the differences. See also Ong .
Ong, Walter J., S.J. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. New York: Methuen, 1982.
Pattison, Robert. On Literacy: The Politics of the Word from Homer to the Age of Rock. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1982.
Historical and cross-cultural study focusing on ideological implications of different definitions and forms of literacy. Literacy, finally, cannot be defined as a mechanical skill, a touchstone of civility, or a prerequisite for economic advancement but as consciousness of the problems raised by language.
Roberts, Peter. Education, Literacy, and Humanization: Exploring the Work of Paulo Freire. Westport, Conn.: Bergin & Garvey, 2000.
If educators from the First World are to avoid the danger of domestication, Freire's writings and pedagogical practice must be properly contextualized and studied in a holistic and critical manner. Reading Freire's entire pedagogical history as a narrative of hope, and the process of reinventing Freire's ideas, begins with acknowledging the particular social circumstances under which his pedagogy was forged. When we engage in critical, dialogical praxis, we pursue the idea of humanization, which is a continuous, unfinished process and makes problematic the tendency among Western educators to reduce Freirean theory to a set of methods. Freire's works contain a number of binary oppositions, but his later writings suggest that there is no single antithesis to liberating education. In Freirean programs of adult literacy education, dialogue is pivotal, and to become literate in the sense Freire intends requires not merely a mastery of signs and symbols, but also a willingness to participate in the process of building and rebuilding one's society. Despite accepting a number of insights from postmodernists, Freire remained essentially a modernist, resulting in strong criticism such as charges of antidialogue and criticisms of universalist thought. The "stages" model of conscientization and an individualist view of critical consciousness should be rejected in order to concentrate on the link between conscientization and praxis; Freire's ideal can be reassessed in light of postmodernist notions of multiple subjectivities.
See: Jacqueline Jones Royster, Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women .
Scribner, Sylvia, and Michael Cole. The Psychology of Literacy. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1981.
Research among the African Vai, a people with widely varying degrees of literacy, reveals no pattern of cognitive gains associated with literacy.
Sheridan, Dorothy, Brian Street, and David Bloome. Writing Ourselves: Mass-Observation and Literacy Practices. Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton Press, 2000.
Because the everyday literacy practices of ordinary people are made nearly invisible, the Mass-Observation Project at the University of Sussex offers a unique institutional context for writing and the means of understanding the nature of writing in Britain in the late twentieth century, illustrating the intimate relationships between literacy practices and social life. Begun in 1937 as an effort to establish an "anthropology of our own people," Mass-Observation asked "ordinary people" to record their lives and submit their writings to the Archive. Re-launched in 1981, the Project today sends volunteer observers or correspondents directives three times a year (e.g., "keep a diary for the day of the 1981 Royal Wedding"). The Archive places recently received material directly in the public domain. Mass-Observation is closely linked with the intellectual history of the discipline of social anthropology in the U.K.; more importantly, Mass-Observation material provides a way of exploring cross-cultural literacy practices, the social uses and meanings of reading and/or writing. Mass-Observers' commentaries on their own writing practices, in particular, adopt an ethnographic perspective on literacy. The dialogues of nine Mass-Observation correspondents are constructed to illustrate how writing is implicated in the exercise of power, definitions of personhood, and the creation and transformation of social space.
Street, Brian, ed. Cross-Cultural Approaches to Literacy. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993.
Opposing a psycholinguistic focus on discrete reading and writing skills, this collection illustrates approaches to literacy informed by anthropology and focused on social contexts and practices. Twelve essays study literacies around the world, many in nonacademic settings. Includes Kathleen Rockhill, "Gender, Language, and the Politics of Literacy"; Miriam Camitta, "Vernacular Writing: Varieties of Literacy among Philadelphia High School Students"; Amy Shuman, "Collaborative Writing: Appropriating Power or Reproducing Authority?"; Gail Weinstein-Shr, "Literacy and Social Process: A Community in Transition"; and an introduction by Street.
Street, Brian V., ed. Literacy and Development: Ethnographic Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2001.
The contributors to this volume are ethnographers of literacy projects who have spent many years conducting in-depth qualitative studies of everyday literacies in different parts of the world. Essays address educational interventions, the broader contexts of development interventions, and the specific aspects of development agendas. Included is an introduction by the editor, an afterword, and ten chapters, including Caroline Dyer and Archana Choksi, "Literacy, Schooling and Development: Views of Rabari Nomads, India"; Martha Wagar Wright, "More Than Just Chanting: Multilingual Literacies, Ideology and Teaching Methodologies in Rural Eritrea"; Priti Chopra, "Betrayal and Solidarity in Ethnography on Literacy: Revisiting Research Homework in a North Indian Village"; Pat Herbert and Clinton Robinson, "Another Language, Another Literacy? Practices in Northern Ghana"; Anna Robinson-Pant, "Women's Literacy and Health: Can an Ethnographic Researcher Find the Links?"; Shirin Zubair, "Literacies, Gender and Power in Rural Pakistan."
Stubbs, Michael. Language and Literacy: The Sociolinguistics of Reading and Writing. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980.
A functional or sociolinguistic theory of literacy accounts for the relationship between spoken and written language and delineates the "communicative functions served by different types of language in different social settings." Although spoken language is usually learned before written language, speech is much more variable than writing, the orthography of which often does not reflect pronunciation. Written language is thus semiautonomous from and often higher in prestige than spoken language. These differences make writing difficult to learn for children whose spoken language varies widely from the written form dominant in school. Psychological theories of verbal deprivation that purport to explain these difficulties are reductive. All languages are equally effective media of communication. Language-learning difficulties must be understood in terms both of children's varied social experiences with language and of their teachers' attitudes toward their preferred language forms.
Taylor, Denny, and Catherine Dorsey-Gaines. Growing Up Literate: Learning from Inner-City Families. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1988.
Detailed ethnographic study of poor urban black families, depicting them as creating productive environments for literacy learning.
Tuman, Myron C. A Preface to Literacy: An Inquiry into Pedagogy, Practice, and Progress. Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1987.
Discussions of literacy present conflicting definitions of the term, from transcription of speech and minimal reading ability (the unproblematic model) to sophisticated interpretive skills that require inferring a context to find meaning in a message (the problematic model). These definitions have supported particular ideological agendas that affect our understanding of literacy education.
Villaneuva, Victor, Jr. Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color. Urbana, Ill.: NCTE, 1993.
Linguistic deficit theories are grossly inadequate to explain the school difficulties of students from minority social groups, who are stigmatized by color and social class, unlike immigrant students, even if their native language is English. Particularly disadvantaged are students of castelike minorities that have been economically and culturally colonized by dominant U.S. culture. The dominant culture requires racelessness and abandonment of the home culture as conditions of acceptance, making biculturalism a difficult option. These students need to develop a critical consciousness of the historically generated social conditions that block their freedom and to become conscious intellectuals who can lead progressive social change. Educators should hold minority students to high standards while teaching forms of literacy that foster cultural and linguistic diversity, and political analyses that address the economic decline and individualistic fragmentation of postmodern life.
Yagelski, Robert P. Literacy Matters: Writing and Reading the Social Self. New York: Teachers College Press, 2000.
Exploring the nature of literacy and its ambiguous role in our lives begins by defining literacy as a local act of self-construction within discourse. Outmoded beliefs about literacy that continue to drive conventional English curricula in American schools do not help us to understand the specific acts of reading and writing that students engage in or the complexities and contradictions involved in literate acts. Children receive mixed messages about literacy, in part because school-based literacy instruction is centered mostly on individual abilities and achievements and ignores the fact that official literacies can marginalize as well as empower. The task of the literacy educator is to enable learners to understand how literacy functions as a means of participation in ever-shifting discourses that shape our lives. Exploring how individual texts come to be and what they mean to individual writers and readers working within complex, inherently social contexts and discourses can illuminate the local nature of literacy in the context of its basic social functions. An adequate understanding of literacy requires accounting for tension between individual writer and social context and should understand the ways in which new literacy technologies might be redefining the value of literacy in an increasingly technological and multicultural world.