“Dear Sophia, I’m Going to Another World”: Transforming Literacy Practices in Early Childhood

“Dear Sophia, I’m Going to Another World”: Transforming Literacy Practices in Early Childhood

Stacia M. Stribling (George Mason University, USA) and Elizabeth K. DeMulder (George Mason University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5059-6.ch005


This chapter shares anecdotes from two early childhood classrooms where issues of diversity helped shape and drive literacy instruction. The stories of change and challenge in these two classroom settings highlight the potential for literacy learning when it is grounded in critical, culturally relevant pedagogy, and when it takes seriously the knowledge and experiences students bring to the classroom community. The chapter has four main purposes: (a) to emphasize the need to reframe/redefine what it means to be literate, (b) to explore the ways that innovative critical literacy practices can be used in early childhood settings as effective methods for engaging young children and supporting their literacy development, (c) to share some of the tensions that emerge when incorporating critical literacy practices in diverse early childhood settings, and (d) to propose ways to better prepare and support teachers to do this work.
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Diversity has become a focus of educational conversations, particularly when educational researchers consider the documented achievement gap in U.S. schools; white middle-class students continually outperform students of color and those from lower socio-economic levels (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). In an effort to close this gap, the U.S. Department of Education instituted the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Unfortunately, the current legislation actually “exacerbate[s] the existing achievement gap between black and Latino students and their white counterparts” (Paul, 2004, p. 648). For example, students from low-income families and students of color are increasingly more likely to attend schools with large class sizes, less experienced teachers, less money spent per pupil, and curricula developed around discrete knowledge bits rather than integrated critical-thinking activities (Kozol, 2005; Neuman, 2006; Paul, 2004).

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