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School Literacies, Youth Identities: Literacy and Ideology in a Remedial Reading Program

Jessica E Masterson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In tandem with the rise of popular, though problematic conceptions of the “achievement gap,” some have similarly surmised that this gap, which points to the disparate academic outcomes between students from minoritized communities and their normative peers, is really a “literacy gap.” This ethnographic study, which followed five high school remedial reading students and their teachers in Heartland, a Midwestern US city, over the course of a semester, interrogates the impact of the relatively narrow ways in which literacy education is taken up and enacted in school on students’ understanding of literacy and its relative value in their lives. The findings of the study suggest that while the student participants did engage in a variety of literate activities in their own lives, they did not consider these literate practices to count as “reading,” perhaps given the highly contextualized activities and assignments they had to complete in their reading classes. Teachers, meanwhile, were not aware of the rich literate lives of their students and envisioned their role as supplying students with basic reading skills they would need to keep up in their other classes. Thus, student-centered practices which affirm students’ diverse interests and ways of knowing, long called for in the annals of education reform, are still critically absent in classrooms where they are perhaps most needed.

Subject Area

Language arts|Educational sociology|Reading instruction

Recommended Citation

Masterson, Jessica E, "School Literacies, Youth Identities: Literacy and Ideology in a Remedial Reading Program" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10829883.