Defying the Odds: Class and the Pursuit of Higher Literacy
“For me, literacy is ... like trying to open a locked door with the wrong key ... I don’t always see the meaning at first and usually I have to have someone ... let me in with their key. I tend to think that being in college is enough, but it still isn’t going to guarantee higher literacy for me. It is something I am trying to grasp, but I am going about it slowly, simply because I am not so sure of how important it is to me.” — Rachel
According to key literacy research, working-class students are far less likely to pursue higher literacy than their middle-class counterparts, yet there are countless examples of those who have defied the odds. In this thoughtful look at why some determinedly pursue higher literacy against all expectations and predictions, Donna Dunbar-Odom explores the complex relationships people have with literacy, paying particular attention to the relationship between literacy and class. She shares the personal and often poignant literacy narratives of writers, academics, and her own students to reveal a great deal about what motivates desire for higher literacy, as well as what gets in the way. Bringing together these reflections with current literacy, composition, and class theories, Dunbar-Odom provides a better understanding of how to tap that desire in writing classrooms. Ultimately, the author argues that teachers need to focus less attention on how students should read and more on why they might want to.
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