Change Is Gonna Come: Transforming Literacy Education for African American Students

Article excerpt

Change is Gonna Come: Transforming Literacy Education for African American Students, by Patricia A. Edwards, Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon, and Jennifer D. Turner. New York: Teachers College Press, 2010, 202 pp., $24.95, paperback.

In the inspirât io nally titled 2010 book, Change is Gonna Come: Transforming Literacy Education for African American Students by Edwards, McMillon, and Turner, the authors provide details on how to effectively enhance the literacy of African American students by translating educational theories and literacy reform rhetoric into practical instructional use within various mainstream, learning environments. Edwards and colleagues use their expertise in the field of education as well as their personal and professional experiences to develop strategies that will address individual, structural, and institutional racism that continues to serve as barriers to equitable literacy education for African American students.

Edwards and coauthors use the premise "looking back to go forward" as a helping technique to develop equal literacy opportunities for African American students. More specifically, the authors use historical events and personal narratives as learning mechanisms to eradicate current and future trends of inadequate teaching strategies for African Americans. Countless debates surrounding the education of African American students continue to exist. A popular debate is the use of a narrowly focused curriculum guided by Eurocentric norms. However, these authors have a focus on the following topics, which they describe as the four major debates/controversies: (a) the fight for access to literacy; (b) supports and roadblocks to success; (c) best practices, theories, and perspectives on teaching African American students; and (d) the role of African American families in the literacy lives of their children. The aforementioned learning mechanisms and noteworthy controversial topics are means to eliminate literacy biases.

In Chapter 1, the authors use two narratives that suggest structural and institutional racism hinders African Americans' access to literacy. Edwards and colleagues use specific experiences that emphasize how racism in any form devalues the educational experience of African Americans and places them in an unfair position to fight for equitable educational opportunities in the United States. The authors highlight the irony of this inequity by stating, "Each case illuminates the complex and contradictory attitudes of a nation that claims to be founded upon principles of individual freedom and equality, yet allows individuals to experience physical and mental bondage and continuous discrimination" (p. 17). This powerful statement confronts the pervasive reality of racism that continues to thrive and oppress African American students in the 21st century.

Chapter 2 addresses the false notion that being Black and smart is not "cool." The authors describe how the desire to be cool takes precedence over being smart to be socially accepted among one's African American peers. Edwards and coauthors emphasize that students who desire to be cool and smart are unsure how to navigate in both worlds based on their personal ideologies of success. The concept of living in both worlds has been described as a "double consciousness" (Gordon, 2007). The authors offer an explanation and benefit of double consciousness by stating, "As African American educators and parents, we have talked about double consciousness as being "the best of both worlds, meaning, as Pat constantly says, you understand Whiteness, and you know how to make it in the White world, but you still know who you are as a Black person" (p. 55). The authors purport that reaching this level of bicultural awareness is instrumental to the academic success of African American students.

Chapter 3 promotes the importance of educating teachers on how to adequately educate African American students through culturally relevant teachings as well as creative, nontraditional instructional approaches. …