What Can I Do?: Using Critical Literacy and Multimodal Text Types to Enhance Students Meaning Making and Talk

What Can I Do?: Using Critical Literacy and Multimodal Text Types to Enhance Students Meaning Making and Talk

Eliza G. Braden (The University of South Carolina, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1067-3.ch027
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Abstract

This chapter offers preservice candidates and inservice teachers a portrait into a classroom context where one teacher: 1. Identified the experiences and backgrounds of 20 culturally and linguistically diverse students; 2. Used critical literacy as a theory to purposefully select literature grounded in the lives and experiences of her culturally and linguistically diverse third graders; and 3. Used critical literacy and multimodal text types to enhance students meaning making and talk. Implications for practice and research are provided.
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Introduction

Read alouds serve as a central figure to classrooms across K-12 settings. They have come to be known has central tasks among literacy classrooms to support children in becoming strategic readers and writers. In my own Elementary Literacy Instruction course, the author uses Sharon Taberski’s On Solid Ground: Strategies for Teaching Reading K-3 (2000) to provide an overview of teaching reading to elementary students. For my preservice candidates, Taberski’s text offers a window into how to support readers strategically during whole group discussions. On pages 81 of On Solid Ground (2000), Taberski defines a read aloud by saying:

During a read aloud, the teacher reads a book to the children that is beyond what they can read on their own. Since the children aren’t reading the text themselves, she only shows children the actual text when there are illustrations to share (2000, p.81).

However, read alouds become more than just a place to demonstrate comprehension strategies and offer children opportunities to respond orally to texts, they become tools for which teachers can help children see themselves reflected in texts, communities, their school, and society.

A recent campaign by a grassroots organization has placed an interest on the diversity of books written by diverse authors and representing diverse people. The We Need Diverse Books campaign has sparked an interest in children, teachers, parents, authors, and others to look at the ways people of color and diverse issues are being represented in literature written for kids. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (2015), which examines pictures books, novels, and non-fiction annually, their report revealed that the number of books written by and about people of color has increased but the numbers are still bleak. In 2015, the CCBC received 3,400 books:

  • 106 were by African American authors.

  • 269 were about African Americans.

  • 19 were by American Indians authors.

  • 42 were about American Indians.

  • 176 were by Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans authors.

  • 113 were about Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans.

  • 58 were by Latino authors.

  • 82 were about Latinos.

Although the quantity of multicultural children’s texts that sit within elementary schools is important, it is not enough to just place or use a book in a classroom if students do not see themselves accurately reflected and/or portrayed. The CCBC notes on its website that the books they document vary widely with regard to accuracy and authenticity. This is critical since the children that sit within schools vary in their experiences and backgrounds. Therefore, it is vital that they have diverse books that are diverse in regards to race, gender, religious affiliations, and topics. Nevertheless, in thinking of the children consuming the stories and messages in literature, we must gear our focus as teacher educators towards supporting and scaffolding preservice candidates and practicing teachers in intentional instruction around selecting literature and engaging in a critical inquiry. For this reason, this chapter offers preservice candidates and inservice teachers a portrait into a classroom context where one teacher:

  • 1.

    Identified the experiences and backgrounds of her culturally and linguistically diverse students;

  • 2.

    Used critical literacy as a theory to purposefully select literature grounded in the lives and experiences of her culturally and linguistically diverse third graders; and

  • 3.

    Used critical literacy and multimodal text types to enhance students meaning making and talk.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mixed–Status Families: Families with at least one parent born in another country and not a U.S. citizen. However, the children are U.S. citizens by virtue of being born in this country, thus, affording the child and not the parent with the rights associated with being a citizen (Brabeck & Xu, 2010; Landale, Thomas, Van Hook, 2011).

Critical Multicultural Literature: Children’s literature that highlights diversity and social justice issues relevant to diverse learners. This literature offers students an avenue to discuss power differentials, sociopolitical relationships, and taken for granted assumptions. This study primarily used critical children’s multicultural literature related to immigration and/or immigrants’ experiences.

Literacy Practices: The activities associated with reading and writing as one makes meaning. The manner in which language and texts are used in order for readers to make sense of their lives.

Latino/a Immigrant Children: Latino/a children born in Latin American countries but raised in the U.S. and/or children born in the U.S. to one or more Latino/a immigrant parents.

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