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Language Arts, Vol. 87, No. 2, November 2009

Cover Art for Language Arts, Vol. 87, No. 2, November 2009

Table of Contents

Issue Theme: Equity, Identity, and Literacy

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  • Thoughts from the Editors: Equity, Identity, and Literacy

  • Children Writing “Hard Times”: Lived Experiences of Poverty and the Class-Privileged Assumptions of a Mandated Curriculum

    Elizabeth Dutro

    Abstract: Dutro discusses an analysis of the disconnect between the material realities of the lives of a group of third-grade children living in poverty and the middle-class assumptions of a district-mandated unit within a literacy curriculum. The analysis arose in the context of an ethnographic study of identity and classroom literacy practices; it was provoked by the children’s responses to a writing prompt included in the curriculum that invited, but in no way anticipated or supported, personal stories of urban poverty. The curriculum portrayed economic struggle as a temporary condition, even as the children’s stories related life within systemic, multigenerational poverty; economic struggle was addressed only in historical or natural disaster contexts rather than as contemporary, lived experience. In addition, the curriculum’s failure to acknowledge the children’s lives was exacerbated by its scripted nature and a high-accountability policy context. The disconnect between children’s lives and the assumptions of the curriculum has implications for policy and practice, including 1) the risk that mandated, scripted curricula will fail to address the needs of some of the most vulnerable students, and 2) the urgent need to centrally address the issue of social class in curriculum development and in teacher inquiries focused on literacy curricula and children’s responses to the texts they are required to engage in school.

    Keywords: Diversity, Elementary, Language, Literacy, Literature, Writing

  • Historical and Contemporary Usages of the “N” Word: Deconstructing the Content and Context in a Multiracial, Middle School Language Arts Class

    Dwight C. Watson

    Abstract: The controversial and complicated nature of the “N” word is examined in a multicultural classroom project. Utilizing both old and new literature, pop culture, historical lenses, and contemporary interpretations, the word proves extremely relevant in today’s language arts classroom. By examining students’ perceptions and experiences as well as the author’s own historical and personal insights, this article focuses on an implemented lesson plan at an urban middle school. The article frames the “N” word and the dialogue using the philosophical concept of presentism and the pedagogical idea of dysconsciousness.

    Keywords: Diversity, Language, Middle, Pedagogy, School/Community

  • Liberation Literature: Positive Cultural Messages in Children’s and Young Adult Literature at Freedom Schools

    Tambra O. Jackson and Gloria S. Boutte

    Abstract: In U.S. schools, African American students are typically fed steady diets of stereotypical and culturally invasive literature and often do not see themselves positively and consistently represented in books. The crisis is fueled, in part, by teachers who (for various reasons) do not include and draw upon counter-narratives in their classrooms. Using the context of Freedom Schools, this article examines the value of liberation literature and what it can offer African American children. This inquiry into the literature is supported by two examples of books analyzed for qualities exemplified in liberation literature. It is suggested that schools and teachers work to maintain and sustain positive cultural messages through the consistent and thoughtful use of books that affirm African American children’s realities.

    Keywords: Diversity, Literacy, Literature, Pedagogy, School/Community

  • Research Directions: (Re)Writing New Possibilities for Teaching Lives: Prospective Teachers and Multicultural Apprenticeships

    Barbara L. Seidl and Matthew D. Conley

    Abstract: Seidl and Conley elaborate a set of beliefs regarding transformative spaces, identity-making, and the development of a critical, multicultural identity that inform their approach to multicultural teacher education. They believe that if we expect new teachers to co-construct with their students classroom spaces that allow multiple voices and diverse identities to flourish, then those teachers must have some experience with what that means in their own lives. Such an approach aims to move students out of the particularity of their experience and into participation in a broader world. The authors draw from narrative data to demonstrate the changes seen in their students as they moved toward a more sophisticated, critically conscious, and multicultural identity.

    Keywords: Diversity, Pedagogy

  • Focus on Policy: Standing Up to Neoliberalism through Critical Literacy Education

    Rebecca Rogers, Melissa Mosley, and Angela Folkes

    Abstract: Strains on the global economy and an imminent recession in the U.S. offer a particularly ripe moment for educators to raise questions about educational reform, the world of schooling, and the kinds of literacy practices that will prepare students for their lives as citizens in a world structured through the social and economic relations of Neoliberalism. In this article, we demonstrate how we center class struggle and analysis at the heart of our teaching and research through two vignettes—one from a second-grade classroom and one from an ESOL adult education classroom. These projects arose from our collaborative work with the teacher activist group to which we belong, the Literacy for Social Justice Teacher Research Group.

    Keywords: Diversity, Literacy, Pedagogy

  • Profiles and Perspectives: Karen Smith: Language Arts Educator of the Year

    Sarah Hudelson

    Abstract: This article honors Karen Smith, who has been given NCTE’s Outstanding Educator in the English Language Arts award for 2009. Through the voices of many colleagues and former students, the article celebrates Karen as a teacher, learner, mentor, collaborator, scholar, storyteller, and visionary thinker and doer.

    Keywords: Elementary, Research

  • Professional Book Reviews: Perspectives on Equity and Identity: Exploring How Literacy Is Shaped in Schools, Homes, and Communities

    Martille Elias, Meredith Labadie, and Barbara Reese

    Abstract: The themes explored in this issue of Language Arts challenge readers to consider how literacy development is influenced, shaped, and created by inequities related to race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. The books reviewed in this column investigate conditions of classroom inequities from different perspectives: curriculum, educators, and policy. The first book, Children’s Literature and Learning: Literary Study across the Curriculum, written by Barbara A. Lehman, examines how educators can address issues of diversity and inequities, both through curriculum and by the kinds of literature they bring in to the classroom. The second book, Building Racial and Cultural Competence in the Classroom: Strategies from Urban Educators, edited by Karen Manheim Teel and Jennifer E. Obidah, offers a collection of articles intended to give teachers and teacher educators strategies for building cultural competence in future educators. And finally, Translating Childhoods: Immigrant Youth, Language, and Culture, by Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, challenges our understanding of the sociology of childhood for children from diverse backgrounds, raising new implications for wide-reaching education policy.

    Keywords: Literature

  • Children’s Literature Reviews: Orbis Pictus Award Winners

    Kim Ford, Carol Avery, Terrell Young, Mingshui Cai, Fran Wilson, Jeffrey S. Kaplan, and Diana Porter

    Abstract: True to the tradition of the Orbis Pictus Award, the committee has selected one award-winning book, five honor books, and eight recommended books from among more than 325 titles of nonfiction for children submitted. This year, the books explore history, biography, art, and the animal world. Regardless of the subject matter or the reading level, all are books that entice a child to turn another page and keep reading. In selecting books, the committee looks for accuracy of presentation with appropriate documentation, organization of material that contributes to clarity and accessibility, an engaging style of writing and design, and potential contribution to the K–8 curriculum.

    Keywords: Literature

  • In Closing . . . : That’s Cool! I Wish I Knew Spanish, Too!

    Julia López-Robertson

    Abstract: A bilingual mother and literacy researcher reflects on raising her son to be bilingual. She wonders why adults insist on viewing children’s bilingualism as a deficit while children themselves value other languages and want to learn them from each other.

    Keywords: Diversity, Language, School/Community

* Journal articles are provided in PDF format and can be opened using the free Adobe® Reader® program or a comparable viewer. Click here to download and install the most recent version of Adobe Reader.

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