Academic journal article Language Arts

Literacy Rituals in the Community and the Classroom

Academic journal article Language Arts

Literacy Rituals in the Community and the Classroom

Article excerpt

Greg iS a ritual reader. At various times during the week, he publicly reads Scripture; in Vietnamese Mass on Sunday, he recites the ancient words of the liturgy during services; and in the evenings, he memorizes long prayers with his father. These are all part of religious rituals that are central to his Catholic faith. On the weekends, Greg also attends Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Society, where he sings songs in multiple languages, performs choral chants, and dramatically animates Bible stories and other religious texts. Greg's ritual literacies often place him in relationship with elders and community leaders who guide him in his pronunciation, his bodily comportment, and his prosody as he reads sacred texts. These practices are a core part of Greg's immigrant identity (Lam & Warriner, 2012), linking him and his community to larger networks and communities of Vietnamese Catholics around the world.

In this article, I examine literacy rituals as a form of culturally relevant pedagogy (Cole, David, & Jimenez, 2016; Ladson-Billings, 1995). I argue that pedagogies drawing on ritualized literacies may offer some students, like Greg, a culturally resonant engagement with school. Students in this study lived in the Northeast and attended an urban Catholic school that was attached to a large multicultural Catholic church called St. Dominic Savio (all names are pseudonyms). A considerable number of the students were immigrants or the children of immigrants from Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China. While urban Catholic schools in general serve large numbers of nonCatholic youth (NCEA, 2014), many of the students at St. Dominic Savio came from religious backgrounds and homes, including large numbers who attended the parish on Sunday each week. Throughout, I consider how literacy rituals were a core part of Greg's community literacy practices, and how his teacher, Ms. Walsh, drew on ritual reading and other ritual literacy practices in her classroom.

Scholars looking at the intersection of religious literacies and schooling have called for greater attention to the potential for students' religious practices and identities to contribute to a robustly relevant pedagogy that honors a variety of cultures and values. Dallavis (2011) considers the current literature on culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy and notes that, while scholars typically make reference to race/ethnicity, gender, social class, and exceptionality, religion is often marginalized when considering diversity in schooling. Other scholars have highlighted instances where teachers have allowed their students' religious perspectives and practices to constructively contribute to school (Skerrett, 2014). For example, Juzwik (2014) asks how educators might draw on the American evangelical interpretive tradition to aid in the close reading tasks of the Common Core Literacy Standards (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). Rackley (2014) considers how to incorporate his students' rich, community-driven reading and speaking practices inherent in their Latter-Day Saints faith and then mobilize that motivation in schools. Together, these authors argue that a truly culturally relevant pedagogy should widen to include religious aspects of culture, notably when religious communities have developed profoundly sophisticated critiques of issues like racism or the treatment of immigrants (Damico & Hall, 2015).

This study illustrates rich literacy rituals in communities and classrooms that draw on students' cultural knowledge and "ways with words" (Heath, 1983), expanding narrow views of reading that prioritize comprehension and autonomous strategies. Where other scholars' thinking about literacy as a social practice have highlighted the importance of (periodic) overt instruction (Luke, 2008), I want to specifically demonstrate how overt pedagogies of choral reading, call and response, recitation, chanting, and song can help bridge the gap between home and school literacies. …

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