Academic journal article School Community Journal

Where Are Their Voices? Examining Power and Privilege in a Family Literacy Text

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Where Are Their Voices? Examining Power and Privilege in a Family Literacy Text

Article excerpt


Research has shown that engagement in home literacy activities, for example, shared book reading (Britto, Brooks-Gunn, & Griffin, 2006; Storch & Whitehurst, 2001) and the direct teaching of letters and sounds (Hood, Conlon, & Andrews, 2008; Stephenson, Parrila, & Georgiou, 2008), may lead to higher levels of emergent and school literacy. Findings such as these have prompted the creation of family literacy programs aimed at teaching parents how to engage in home literacy activities with their children (Auerbach, 1990; Gadsden, 2008) and encouraging parents to incorporate such activities into their daily routines (Auerbach, 1990; Elish-Piper, 2000; Note: the term parents is used throughout this article to refer to any family member or guardian who acts as a primary caregiver for the child). By doing so, these programs aim to facilitate the development of emergent and school literacy (Auerbach, 1995; Elish-Piper, 2000; Gadsden, 2008), particularly among children from diverse racial, ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds (Alamprese, 2004; Gadsden, 2004; Nistler & Maiers, 1999; Taylor, 1993).

Despite their potential benefits, critics have raised numerous concerns about family literacy programs. Critics claim that many programs devote too much attention to school-based literacy practices (Auerbach, 1990; Elish-Piper, 2000; Morrow & Paratore, 1993) while disregarding the literacy practices of their participants (Auerbach, 1995; Reyes & Torres, 2007). Additionally, since school-based literacy practices typically reflect mainstream, European American culture (Auerbach, 1990; Reyes & Torres, 2007), many critics assert that family literacy programs proffer deficit notions of families from diverse backgrounds (Gadsden, 2004; Taylor, 1993). Other critics accuse family literacy programs of attempting to colonize participants (Reyes & Torres, 2007).

In response to these and other concerns, several studies have examined text and images in family literacy materials (Anderson, Lenters, & McTavish, 2008; Anderson, Streelasky, & Anderson, 2007; Kendrick, Anderson, Smythe, & McKay, 2003; Smythe, 2006; Smythe & Isserlis, 2002). Among these studies, two examined books, manuals, listserv discussions, and other materials (Smythe, 2006; Smythe & Isserlis, 2002), and three investigated the websites of family literacy programs (Anderson et ak, 2007; Anderson et ak, 2008; Kendrick et ak, 2003). While these studies have made important contributions to the body of research, additional studies are needed to address the full range of family literacy materials. Toward such a contribution, this study examined the ways in which a family literacy text linked to a large-scale, U.S.-based program privileged and/or disprivileged mainstream, Eurocentric literacy practices.

Theoretical Framework

This study employed Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a guiding framework. CRT emerged from the work of critical legal scholars shortly after the Civil Rights Movement. Since that time, CRT has been utilized by scholars in a number of fields including education. In education, CRT operates as " a framework or set of basic insights, perspectives, methods, and pedagogy that seeks to identify, analyze, and transform those aspects of education that maintain subordinate and dominant positions in and out of the classroom" (Solòrzano & Yosso, 2002, p. 25). To achieve that aim, CRT: (1) interrogates conventional assertions about objectivity, colorblindness, and equality; (2) honors the lived experiences of those who have been affected by racism; (3) draws on the insights of scholars from relevant fields; (4) considers racism and other forms of oppression; and (5) promotes empowerment and social justice (Solòrzano & Yosso, 2002).

Through the use of CRT, education researchers have noted that labels such as " at-risk" promote a deficit view of students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds (Ladson-Billings, 1998; Shapiro, 2014; Solòrzano & Yosso, 2002) and that the continued use of Eurocentric curricula serves to maintain race-based inequities in U. …

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