Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Identity and Text: Developing Self-Conscious Readers

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Identity and Text: Developing Self-Conscious Readers

Article excerpt

'If we weren't doing any sessions, I probably wouldn't have thought much about the book being about Europeans and Aboriginals. I probably just thought it was like ... It probably just meant to be like one of the others; that they just have no meaning to it. They're just basically there, like Spot or something.' Susan (pseudonym) age 11

This quote from Susan was from the last of four sessions in which a small group of Year Six students read and discussed The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan. The lessons formed part of a small case study, originally conceptualised to explore the notion that students from different backgrounds, cultures and countries might interpret the book differently. The study was conducted in parallel with a similar group of students in the UK and findings were to be compared.

However, when the sessions were complete it became apparent that there were implications beyond simply ascertaining that students drew on different socio-cultural resources in order to make meaning. As Susan herself said if there 'hadn't been any sessions' then she would never have accessed other possible meanings in this text. It was this comment that led us to re-examine the transcripts of the sessions with other questions in mind. The re-examination of the transcripts focused on the role 'knowledge about reading' plays in assisting students to make meaning, This time we considered students' identity in terms of both their socio-cultural characteristics and their knowledge and experiences as readers. Consequently we began to think more carefully about how we, as teachers

* identify and use pedagogy to teach students how to use their identity as a reader more strategically, and

* identify knowledge and strategies, which will aid students in using their identity to read more strategically.

The purpose of this paper is to explore our findings in terms of current trends and issues in literacy pedagogy. We also offer suggestions on explicit teaching strategies that will assist development of students' awareness and use of all the resources that influence their identity as a reader to make meaning from text.

Current beliefs about literacy and literacy pedagogy

The changing nature of our domestic, public and working lives as a result of globalisation and societal change means that views of literacy as simply being able to read and write traditional texts are no longer adequate. The language and literacy skills needed to make meaning are increasing and continually changing; consequently the term 'multiliterate' has been developed to describe the characteristics of the literate person in these new times. Multiliteracies include not only the traditional print literacies, but also the many modes of representation and forms of text that have been made available through multimedia and technological change. A multiliterate person needs a repertoire of practices that can be used for

* making meaning and communicating in a variety of modes and media

* critical analysis of texts in all representational forms and

* engaging in the social responsibilities of interaction associated with texts.

Reading, as one of the multiliteracies, must also be defined in new ways. Readers in new times need to be active readers, with the self-confidence to form and venture opinions about texts and their contexts. Readers need to know how to read the text both for their own purposes and for the purposes defined by the cultural context in which the text is operating. In other words readers need to be as much in control of the text as they are controlled by it (Courts, 1991).

Within the context of change that has resulted in new definitions of literacy and reading, literacy pedagogy itself must be viewed differently. Multiliteracies focus on the multiplicity of technologies, cultures, experiences, ways of making meaning and ways of thinking that are available to the learner. …

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