Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

Reading in Their Own Interests: Teaching Five Levels of Analysis to U.S. Students of Color in Urban Communities

Academic journal article International Journal of Multicultural Education

Reading in Their Own Interests: Teaching Five Levels of Analysis to U.S. Students of Color in Urban Communities

Article excerpt

Reading the World through their World Research Context and Design Five Levels of Analysis Five Levels of Analysis in Practice Conclusion: Reading in their Own Interests References Notes 

A text to be read is a text to be studied. A text to be studied is a text to be interpreted. We cannot interpret a text if we read it without paying attention, without curiosity.... If a text is difficult, you insist on understanding it.... To study is not easy because to study is to create and re-create and not to repeat what others say. To study is a revolutionary duty!

--Student cited Literacy: Reading the Word and the World (Freire & Macedo, 1988, p. 77).

When I was an early career teacher, Freire and Macedo's (1987) Literacy: Reading the Word and the World helped me understand how urban schooling experiences were symptomatic of larger institutional practices that silence critical social analysis and foreground mendacious cultural narratives. These learning conditions are major contributors to a sense of academic marginalization that contributes to upwards of 50% national African-American and Latino high school dropout rates (Orfield, 2004). On average, African-American and "Hispanic" twelfth-grade students read at the same level as White eighth-graders (Office of Vocational and Adult Education, 2002). Beyond youth of color, roughly 23% of all high school graduates are not ready to succeed in an introductory-level college writing course (ACT, 2006). Understanding the importance of critical literacy in this context serves to further clarify my conviction that in order for teachers to more effectively connect our objectives to the needs of urban communities we must construct critical and culturally responsive teaching practices that tap into the transformative potential of young people in our classrooms. In other words, our curriculum must offer students an opportunity to move across various forms of literacy by developing an analytical lens through which they can interpret their own reality and move towards a critical consciousness. Reading instruction, thus, must help students critically understand themselves and the world around them.

Instead, urban educators are often stockpiled with "teacher-proof," corporate textbooks aligned with state learning standards designed to transfer community-irrelevant content and rote skill sets without taking into account the social needs of its learners. In this high-stakes testing climate, urban teaching is done "in preparation for multiple choice exams and writing gobbledygook in imitation of the psycho-babble that surrounds them" (Courts, 1991, p. 4). As Macedo (1996) described, "Literacy for the poor is, by and large, characterized by mindless, meaningless drills and exercises" (p. 37). To more effectively respond to "'uncritical' literacy" (Morrell, 2008, p. 211), this article shares an approach to reading that guides urban high-school-aged students to read in their own interests. Delpit (1988) argues that there is a distinct culture and language of power that acts as an educational gatekeeper--a "silenced dialogue" whereby poor children, particularly poor non-White children, are never given access to the tools of academic and critical literacy. She contends that there is a set of rules through which power is mediated, "a culture of power," and that teachers must provide a bridge into that dialogue for students that come from socially marginalized cultures. Teaching students to read in their own interest addresses this by using the culture of students as an explicit pathway into academic literacy and the culture of power that resides there.

Reading the Word through Their World

To move towards alternative approaches to reading instruction, we could engage in what Gay (2000) calls "culturally responsive teaching." Utilizing culturally relevant pedagogies is a fundamental approach to creating engaging, yet rigorous, learning conditions for underrepresented students of color in working class communities (Ladson-Billings, 1994; Oakes, Lipton, Anderson, & Stillman, 2012; Sleeter, 2005). …

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