A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Literacy Practices: Power in and out of Print

A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Literacy Practices: Power in and out of Print

A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Literacy Practices: Power in and out of Print

A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Literacy Practices: Power in and out of Print


In this groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary book, Rebecca Rogers explores the complexity of family literacy practices through an in-depth case study of one family, the attendant issues of power and identity, and contemporary social debates about the connections between literacy and society. The study focuses on June Treader and her daughter Vicky, urban African Americans labeled as "low income" and "low literate." Using participant-observation, ethnographic interviewing, photography, document collection, and discourse analysis, Rogers describes and explains the complexities of identity, power, and discursive practices that June and Vicky engage with in their daily life as they proficiently, critically, and strategically negotiate language and literacy in their home and community. She explores why, despite their proficiencies, neither June or Vicky sees themselves as literate, and how this and other contradictions prevent them from transforming their literate capital into social profit. This study contributes in multiple ways to extending both theoretically and empirically existing research on literacy, identity, and power:

Critical discourse analysis. The analytic technique of critical discourse analysis is brought into the area of family literacy. The detailed explanation, interpretation, and demonstration of critical discourse analysis will be extremely helpful for novices learning to use this technique. This is a timely book, for there are few ethnographic studies exploring the usefulness and limits of critical discourse analysis.

Combines critical discourse analysis and ethnography. This new synthesis, which is thoroughly illustrated, offers an explanatory framework for the stronghold of institutional discursive power. Using critical discourse analysis as a methodological tool in order to build critical language awareness in classrooms and schools, educators working toward a critical social democracy may be better armed to recognize sources of inequity.

Researcher reflexivity. Unlike most critical discourse analyses, throughout the book the researcher and analyst is clearly visible and complicated into the role of power and language. This practice allows clearer analysis of the ethical, moral, and theoretical implications in conducting ethnographic research concerned with issues of power.

A critical perspective on family literacy. Many discussions of family literacy do not acknowledge the raced, classed, and gendered nature of interacting with texts that constitutes a family's literacy practices. This book makes clear how the power relationships that are acquired as children and adults interact with literacy in the many domains of a family's literacy lives.

A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Literacy Practices: Power In and Out of Print will interest researchers and practitioners in the fields of qualitative methodology, discourse analysis, critical discourse studies, literacy education, and adult literacy, and is highly relevant as a text for courses in these areas.


James Paul Gee

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Many years ago a close colleague of mine who worked in education brought me tape recordings of stories told by certain first-grade African-American children at "sharing time" in various schools. "Sharing time" was "show and tell" without letting the children have any objects to point to. The stories were about the children's pets, their families, their birthdays, their activities, their day-to-day problems. My colleague told me that the children's teachers thought their stories were disconnected and rambling. Indeed, they thought their stories did not make much sense. The children, they felt, had some sort of "deficit."

At the time my colleague brought me these stories I worked in linguistics, not education. I knew nothing about schools and schooling. What my colleague told me and showed me shocked me. Many a sociolinguist would readily have recognized these children's stories as excellent examples of the sorts of well-formed and creative "oral stories" found in many cultures across the globe. These are cultures with long historical traditions of oral storytelling as a "cultural encyclopedia" of stored values and knowledge.

People in these cultures are usually literate now. However, they retain allegiance to storing profound cultural meanings in stories told face-to-face. Some of these stories are "repeated" in roughly the same form from occasion to occasion. But sometimes they are stories of everyday and current events that still, nonetheless, contain deeper layers of meaning germane to larger themes, meanings similar to or influenced by the more fixed stories. Indeed, this form of storytelling is often referred to as "oral literature."

Linguists knew that many African-Americans had clear ties to such a culture, both from their roots in Africa and in the development of an early, indigenous, and on-going African-American culture in the United States. Indeed, even at the time my colleague showed me the children's stories, I

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