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Changing Literacies for Changing Times

reviewed by Diane Barone - November 10, 2009

coverTitle: Changing Literacies for Changing Times
Author(s): James V. Hoffman and Yetta M. Goodman (eds.)
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 0415995035, Pages: 314, Year: 2009
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Changing Literacies for Changing Times has been crafted to contextualize current understandings of literacy through revisiting previous scholarly work and policy decisions in a wide variety of literacy topics. The editors selected leading literacy researchers, many of whom are in the International Reading Association’s Reading Hall of Fame, to guide the reader in understanding historical, current, and future musings about literacy research, policy, and classroom practice.

As a reader and reviewer of this book, I engaged in a linear reading process starting at the beginning and carefully working through the book’s chapters. I suggest that readers abandon this process and begin with the last chapter as it thoroughly grounds the preceding chapters. Tierney in “Literacy Education 2.0,” begins with acknowledging that his chapter shares “A backward look at the developments that we have endured” (p. 282). He shares his concerns with our current international focus on student achievement as measured through standardized testing. He reveals his frustration with the stress on test results and how this focus has narrowed definitions of literacy, lessened teachers’ decision making, imposed directed teaching practices, and narrowed what counts as research. In considering the “Road Ahead” a section in his chapter, he targets teacher turnover and the future preparation of teachers that would include “digital, linguistic skills, and cultural awareness to build upon indigenous resources, including language and the multicultural nature of our increasing cosmopolitan settings” (p. 290). Finally, he considers literacy and reform models and highlights ideas from other chapters that illuminate his ideas, thus providing a different lens to consider the ideas shared by other literacy experts within the book.

The book is organized into five parts: Expanding Views of Literacy; Literacy Development; Foundational Issues in the Teaching of Reading; Teaching, Teacher Education, and Professional Development; and Policy and Practice in Literacy Education. In Part I, the chapters are loosely coupled in that each chapter is divergent from the others in topic. In Chapter 1, “The Communicative, Visual, and Performative Arts: Core Components of Literacy Education,” Lapp et al. describe the disappearance of video, newspapers, and hand held video games. They explain how comic books, graphic novels, and Internet games have become popular. Throughout their chapter they argue for the importance of visual image for today’s readers. As their argument builds, they discuss the importance of access to technology and importance of colleges of education shifting from transmission learning models to ones that include oral, visual, and graphic performance. The chapter that follows, “From Gray to Google: Learning within a Profession,” highlights the search process for scholarly articles. Roser and Weintraub carefully describe how articles were included in the Gray Summaries of Research. They then parallel this description with the current Internet modes of search and how descriptions of the research topics within articles are written by outsiders and can be misleading or inaccurate.

The third chapter in this section, “Multimodality: In Perspective,” written by Harste is similar to Chapter 1 in that it argues for the return of multimodality activities and instruction in classrooms. Harste, similar to Lapp et al., argues for the importance of visual design in literacy instruction. In the final chapter in this section, “Surveying the Hopescape,” Bishop provides a review of African American children’s books from the past to the present.

Although I found each of these chapters interesting, I saw them as a very eclectic collection. Chapters 1 and 3 persuasively argued for the expansion of the narrow literacy instruction provided to many students today. I think teachers will resonate with these ideas and see possible ways to extend their literacy curricula. Chapter 3 will be of most interest to teacher educators and researchers as they get an insider view of access and search processes. They will also learn about the importance of paying attention to research syntheses and how they affect mandates and policy decisions. Finally, for professors of children’s literature classes, a careful review of African American children’s literature is provided.

The next section, Literacy Development, begins with a chapter, “The Transformation of Children’s Knowledge of Language Units during Beginning and Initial Literacy.” Ferreiro provides a review of her earlier research and brings her work in how writing influences what children learn about language current. Teale et al., in Early Literacy: Then and Now, share a view of early literacy research from the past to the present. I particularly enjoyed reading about the good and bad of where we are now. The next chapter, “Reading/Teaching Adolescents: Literacies with a History,” focuses on adolescent readers. Alvermann challenges notions that adolescents are in constant turmoil and are a homogenous group. She describes how when communicating in a virtual world, age is not revealed. Similar to Lapp et al. she discusses the variability of access to technology that adolescents experience. In the final chapter in this section, “The Lamplighters: Pioneers of Adult Literacy Education in the United States,” Sticht discusses important people like Huey, Taylor, and Clark and their support of adult education.

The next section, Foundational Issues in the Teaching of Reading, features well-recognized researchers and their particular research topics. The section begins with Cambourne revisiting his ideas about natural learning in “Revisiting the Concept of “Natural Learning.”’ Following this chapter Goodman, Goodman, and Paulson share previous and current research on miscue analysis in “Beyond Word Recognition: How Retrospective and Future Perspectives on Miscue Analysis Can Inform Our Teaching.” The next chapter, “Spelling and Its Role in Literacy Education: An Historical Perspective,” showcases spelling research. Hodges discusses how the acquisition of orthographic literacy is more profound than learning to spell words, and how spelling is critical within literacy education. The last chapter in this section, “Readability: Insights, Sidelights, and Hindsights,” is written by Fry and shares how readability supports comprehension. Fry shares early work in readability and provides an overview of book leveling today.

There are two chapters in the next section, Teaching, Teacher Education, and Professional Development. The first chapter, “Literacy Education at a Crossroad: Can We Counter the Trend to Marginalize Quality Teacher Education?” written by Duffy et al. suggests that teachers today in their worry over test scores are trained to follow routines. They criticize online teacher education courses, and suggest that to improve teacher education, universities and colleges must follow their graduates into the field. The second chapter in this section, “Whole School Instructional Improvement through the Standards-based Change Process: A Developmental Model,” offers a model for whole school change. Raphael, Au, and Goldman document how they developed the SBC Process Developmental Model of School Change.

The final section, Policy and Practice in Literacy Education, becomes more political. In the first chapter, “Language Policy and Literacy Instruction: The View form South America to South Texas,” Hoffman et al. suggest that the U.S. can learn about the value of multilingualism for South Africa. Following this chapter is one by Shannon et al., “Fifty Years of Federal Government Involvement in Reading Education,” where they criticize federal policies and their result of more standardization. The next chapter, “Literacy Policies that Are Needed: Thinking Beyond “No Child Left Behind”” by Allington builds and extends the argument shared by Shannon et al. suggesting that federal programs have resulted in little improvement in student reading. He recommends that states and school districts be give more freedom to decide what is best to improve student literacy.

This book would be an excellent one to use in literacy foundation courses. Students would learn about the historical roots of literacy research, policy, and instruction. They would learn about these topics from experts in the literacy field. It is rare to find a book that contextualizes current literacy practices and policies historically. This contextualization allows current researchers and teachers to have a better understanding of various topics, and to better appreciate current circumstances in literacy research and instruction.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 10, 2009
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15825, Date Accessed: 1/28/2022 10:44:14 PM

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About the Author
  • Diane Barone
    University of Nevada, Reno
    E-mail Author
    DIANE BARONE is a foundation professor of literacy at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her research has always focused on young children’s literacy development and instruction in high poverty schools. She has conducted two longitudinal studies of literacy development: one, a four-year study of children prenatally exposed to crack/cocaine and two, a seven-year study of children, predominantly English Language Learners, in a high-poverty school. She has had articles published in journals such as Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Literacy Research, Elementary School Journal, The Reading Teacher, Gifted Childhood Quarterly, and Research in the Teaching of English. She has written several books, among them are: Resilient Children, Research-Based Practices in Early Literacy, Writing without Boundaries, and Using Your Core Reading Program and Children’s Literature K-3 and 4-6. She served as the Editor of Reading Research Quarterly. She was a board member of the International Reading Association and the National Reading Conference.
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