The colonization of literacy education : the story of reading in one elementary school in Texas

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Pennington, Julie L.

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This study explored how inservice teachers in an inner city elementary school defined the literacy abilities of their students. The voices of the teachers were explored using ethnographic methods and based on a critical, reflective stance towards the teachers’ construction of the literacy ability of children of color (Behar, 1993; Foley, 1995; Trueba, 1999). The teachers’ conceptions regarding literacy were situated within a socio-cultural definition of literacy. This research study was conducted over the course of one semester. Five teachers, one administrator and two reading specialists were interviewed at one inner city elementary school and asked to reflect on their literacy definitions in relation to their practice, their constructions of the children, and their perceptions of the literacy abilities of the children’s families. Data analysis consisted of investigating initial, ongoing, and final data sources for emerging themes and patterns. Specific attention was focused on the role that race, culture, and state educational policy played in the teachers’ definitions of the literacy abilities of children of color. Study findings suggest that teachers’ definitions of the literacy abilities of their students are subject to teachers’ constructions of the cultural background of children. Race, culture and education policy all serve to influence and shape how teachers view their student’s abilities and how they address the literacy instruction and expectations for the students.



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