Larson Authors Chapter on Classroom Literacy Practices in Warner Alumna's Book

Breaking the Silence bookJoanne Larson, Michael W. Scandling Professor of Education and chair of the teaching and curriculum program, contributed a chapter in Breaking the Silence: Recognizing the Social and Cultural Resources Students Bring to the Classroom (International Reading Association, 2009), a book edited by Warner Alumna Catherine Compton-Lilly. The recently published book, which features chapters from several leading scholars, explores the connections that exist among teaching and learning and the sociocultural contexts in which schooling occurs while highlighting the relevance of social and cultural diversity.  

Larson’s chapter, “New Literacy Studies: Literacy Learning Through a Sociocultural Lens,” introduces theory related to new literacy studies and takes readers into two remarkable classrooms in which teachers are exploring the potential of literacy instruction to provide students with experiences that have very real consequences on students’ lives. Larson demonstrates that literacy is not just a set of skills that are taught to children; it is a set of social practices that children use in school, at home, and in their communities.

“Our children live in an increasingly complex world of evolving technologies, new media, and a globalized economy,” explains Larson. “In order for learning to be rich and schools to remain relevant in students’ lives, teachers must move beyond a narrow focus of literacy exercises and connect classroom literacy practices to the broader social and cultural practices of their students and local communities. We need to inspire students with rich, authentic, and meaningful learning experiences.”

Larson has emerged as a leading scholar in new literacies. She works toward empowering students to achieve the kinds of literacy needed to be successful. Her investigations are distinguished by her partnerships with practicing teachers and school-based educators. Specifically, she studies urban schools and how differences between access to participation in various literacy events affect student learning.

Most recently, a grant from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Foundation enabled Larson to support teachers at Henry Hudson School 28 in researching the impact of external standardizing mandates on literacy in their classrooms. Larson is also involved in an ethnography of the Rochester Surround Care Community that will ultimately identify how urban schools and communities can better meet the needs of children. Larson is the author of several publications and co-producer of a documentary film, A Life Outside, which explores the teaching of Lynn Astarita Gatto, 2004 New York State Teacher of the Year.

Breaking the Silence: Recognizing the Social and Cultural Resources Students Bring to the Classroom acknowledges that teaching and learning are complex, human activities that involve individuals who bring unique interests, goals, and experiences to schools and classrooms. The book also includes chapters that take readers into classrooms in which teachers capitalize on students’ interests and cultural knowledge as they invite them to use literacy in personal and purposeful ways.

The book’s editor, Compton-Lilly, who also serves as an assistant professor of literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, taught in New York State public schools for 18 years. After receiving her doctorate in curriculum and human development from the Warner School, she completed a Spencer/National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellowship that focused on the literacy experiences of adult GED students and their families. She is the author of Reading Families: The Literate Lives of Urban Children; Confronting Racism, Poverty and Power: Classroom Strategies to Change the World; and Re-reading Families: The Literature Lives of Urban Children, Four Years Later. Her current research focuses on literacy learning in urban communities.


Tags: book, Joanne Larson, literacy