Introduction: Participants in the
Study and Theoretical
As no diaries or letters have been located to tell their side of the story, one can only imagine the feelings of the parents and children in the black community as they fought for fair treatment by the school system. Official documents, however, trace the victories and setbacks experienced by these foot-soldiers for equal educational rights. The story of their struggle has left scars on our hearts.
—Hughes (1998, p. 47)
June Treader is one of the strongest women I know. June is raising a healthy, safe, and literate family in a community faced with poverty, murders, AIDS, drugs, and gang-related violence. She handles virtually all of the literate demands of her household, from paying bills to making sure her children's homework is done. June negotiates all family communications, written and otherwise, with the school and other institutions. She even initiated and obtained signatures on a petition to change local traffic conditions. Yet, when I first met June in her adult basic education classroom, at the end of a reading lesson she asked timidly, "Did I read this good?" When she talked about her progress, tears ran down her face. There is a profound tension between June's personal and public literate lives.
There are other tensions, too. In spite of the fact that her husband, Lester, was substantially more capable at certain literate tasks—like reading the newspaper, it was June that met all of the family unit's literate demands. Standing in her kitchen one day, June handed me one of the letters that had come home from the school and commented, "I don't understand why they makin' such a big deal out of these papers." Within 3 months, June had received several form letters from her daughter's school. The school asked for parental permission to proceed with the special-education referral process on her oldest daughter, Vicky. June resisted beginning the referral process on her sixth-grade daughter, claiming, "if she put her mind to it she can do it." The urgency in her voice revealed not only her commitment to her children's education, but some of her substantial understanding of