My Literacy Journey


Ariza, E., Morales-Jones, C., Yahya N., & Zainuddin, H. (2007). Why TESOL?: Theories and issues in teaching English as a Second Language for K-12 teachers

Bomer, R., & Bomer, K. . (2001). For a Better world: reading and

writing for social action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Carrington, V. (2003). ‘I’m in a bad mood. Let’s go shopping’: Interactive dolls, consumer culture and a ‘glocalized’ model of literacy. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 3(1), 83-98.

Comber, B., Thomson, P., & Wells, M. (2001). Critical literacy finds a “place”: Writing and social action in a low-income Australian grade 2/3 classroom. The Elementary School Journal, 101(4), 451-464.

Davies Samway, K. & McKeon, D. (1999). Myths about acquiring a

second language (L2). In Myths and realities: Best practices for language minority students (pp. 17-27). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Gee, J. P. (1989). What is literacy? Journal of Education, 71(1), 18-25.

Igoa, C. (1995). The stages of uprooting.  The Inner World of the

Immigrant Child. Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum.

Jones, S (2006). girls, social class, & literacy. Portsmouth, NH:


Kliewer, C. (2008). Seeing all kids as readers: A new vision for literacy in the inclusive early childhood classroom. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Kluth, P. & Chandler-Olcott, K. (2007).  “A land we can share”:  Teaching literacy to students with autism. Baltimore: Brookes.

Lewison, M., Leland, C., Flint, A. S., & Moller, K. J. (2002). Dangerous

discourses: Using controversial books to support engagement,

diversity, and democracy. The New Advocate, 15(3), 215-226.

McDermott, R. & Varenne, H. (1995).  Culture as disability. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 26 (3), 324-348.

McIntosh, P. (1988). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Peace & Freedom, 49, 10–12.

Moll, L.C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of

knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect

homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice 31, 132-141.

Scribner, S. (1984). Literacy in three metaphors. American Journal of Education, 93(1),


Wheeler, R., & Swords, R. (2004). Codeswitching: Tools of language and culture transform the dialectally diverse classroom. Language Arts, 81(6), 470-480.

Willems, M (2009). Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.


Sharing that pain with others reawakens the interrelationship between others’ pain and our suffering.  It builds a community based not so much on our own suffering but on the suffering of all those we encounter. And that invites our compassion; it invites action“. (Bomer & Bomer, 2001, p. 174).

This quote captures the heart of what the Bomer’s stand for in terms of social justice locally and in broader terms.  Their text For A Better World, has really influenced a lot of what I stand for in terms of social justice in my classroom today.  One specific activity that I tried out myself begins with the prompt: I Could Not Tell…

If implemented seriously, this activity has the power to uncover things that were never spoken about before in classrooms. It can create a sense of community where students feel safe to share their fears, their failures, and their lives.  Literacy has the power to do all of this, if we let it.  I plan to utilize the work of the Bomer’s in my classroom to the fullest extent, especially this prompt.

After Reading Kliewer’s text from this course as well as a text called A Land We Can Share by  Paula Kluth and Kelly Chandler-Olcott, I really got to thinking even more about how I see students as literate beings.  I truly stand for the inclusion of all students and broadening my conceptions/perceptions about what it means to be literate, who is literate, and what communication really means. In addition to these powerful texts, the works of Gee, Scribner, and McDermott & Varenne also stand out to me.  As an educator who is fully dedicated to the inclusion of all students, and seeing literacy as a way for people to communicate, I am working on expanding how I think about planning lessons, activities, and the ways in which students can interact with literacy in my classroom. As a framework for planning lessons and activities, I plan to utilize Gardner’s multiple intelligences as one way to think about universally designing my lessons.  I also plan on incorporating multiple means in which students can demonstrate their literacy learning. This includes: drama, art, drawing, song writing, the list is endless.

Gardeners Multiple Intelligences

Try to address an array of the intelligences to meet the needs of all learners








Body Kinesthetic

Verbal/Linguistic: Spoken/written words Musical: Rhythm and sound
Naturistic: Relating information to natural surroundings Intrapersonal: Thinking metacognitively/reflecting; understanding oneself
Interpersonal: Interacting with others Logical/Mathematical: Logic, reasoning, numbers
Visual/Spacial: Ability to visualize (think in pictures); spacial judgment Body Kinesthetic: Physical awareness (movement, making/touching things)

One of the most powerful articles I read this semester was the Comber et al. article. The authors discuss taking local action based on students’ perceptions, wants, fears, and thoughts about their own neighborhood. This was extremely powerful because the students were able to see that their thoughts and perceptions about their neighborhood truly mattered to their teacher. They also saw literacy and their own writing as a way to take social action and were able to see how literacy and engaging in writing can truly make a difference in their own lives.  This study was very powerful to read and has influenced me to always keep these sort of questions and activities in the back of my mind. Next year, I plan to do a similar activity and ask students:

1) Draw/Write about the best things in your life.

2) Draw/Write about something that makes you really happy.

3) Draw/Write about something that makes you really angry.

4)Draw/Write about something that makes you worried.

5) Draw/Write your three wishes.

6) Draw/Write about something you wish you could change in your neighborhood, school, or world.

Source: Comber, B., Thomson, P., & Wells, M. (2001). Critical literacy finds a “place”: Writing and social action in a low-income Australian grade 2/3 classroom. The Elementary School Journal, 101(4), 451-464.

I can imagine just how informative, powerful, and exciting this activity will be with my future students in the South Bronx. I want students to truly see the power of literacy and just how much what they say and how they feel matters in their worlds.

Reading the World in the Word:

Key Linguistic Features for a Critical Analysis of Texts

Linguistic feature Explanation of the linguistic feature Example of the linguistic feature

Lexicalization The selection/choice of words. Different words construct the same idea differently.
Overlexicalization Many words for the same phenomenon
Relexicalization Renaming
Metaphor Used for yolking ideas together and for the discursive construction of new ideas.
Euphemism Hides negative actions or implications
Transitivity Processes in verbs: Are they verbs of …

  • Doing—material process
  • Being or having—relational processes
  • Thinking/ feeling/ perceiving—mental processes
  • Saying—verbal processes
  • Physiological—behavioral processes
Voice Active and passive voice constructs participants as doers or as “done-tos.” Passive voice allows for the deletion of the agent.
Nominalization: a verb is turned into a noun A process is turned into a thing or an event without participants or tense or modality.

Central mechanism for reification.

Modality: degrees of certainty Logical possibility/ probability

Social authority

Modality created by modals (may, might, could, will), adverbs (possibly, certainly, hopefully), intonation, tag questions (right?).

Pronouns Inclusive we

Exclusive we/ you

Us and them

Sexist/ non sexist pronouns:                  generic ‘he’

The choice of first/ second/ third person.

Definite article: the

Indefinite article: a

‘The’ is used for shared information—to refer to something mentioned before or that the addressee can be assumed to know about. Reveals textual presuppositions.


Janks, H. (1999). Key linguistic features for critical discourse analysis. Workshop presented at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY.

As I critically read texts personally, I really try to utilize this chart as a way to frame my thinking about the texts. I can definitely see the many benefits of using an organizer such of this in my own classroom, as I want students to be fully aware of all of the features of the texts they are reading. I never want them to fully accept a text as neutral of “right”. Being that I will be teaching first grade, I plan to make this organizer into a kid-friendly source for students to use/refer to when they are “reading” anything. Not only do I think this is important for literature, I plan to invite students to read all different kinds of texts so that they see and are aware of the world around them.

I also found the framework Jones (2006) uses for critically reading texts with her girls extremely powerful. i plan to do a lot of this kind of work with my students as well and feel that many of the questions she considers, are accessible for students everywhere to answer if this kind of thinking is scaffolded and explained beforehand.

Questions about Perspective

Readers can ask themselves…

  • Who could have created this text?
  • What can I guess about the perspective of the writer (designer/ speaker)?
  • Who are the intended audiences—how can I tell?
  • What does the author think about the intended audiences?
  • What readers might think the same as the author?
  • What readers might think something different?

Writers can ask themselves…

  • From what perspective am I creating this text?
  • What experiences are included and why?
  • What experiences are excluded and why?
  • Who will my readers be and what do I think about them?
  • How might a reader feel about this text if she/he has a different perspective?
  • Is there a way to create this text that is inclusive of more perspectives?

Questions about Positioning

Readers can ask themselves…

  • Who does the writer make her/himself out to be?
  • What perspectives, practices, and/or people are centered or valued in the text?
  • What perspectives, practices, and/or people are marginalized or devalued in the text?
  • What readers might feel like “insiders” reading this text?
  • What readers might be positioned as “outsiders” by this text?
  • How does this text position me?

Writers can ask themselves…

  • How do I position myself in this text? How might my readers envision me as the writer?
  • What perspectives, practices, and/or people are privileged, or centered, in my text and why?
  • What am I doing to readers with perspectives similar to those in this text?
  • What am I doing to readers with perspectives different from those in this text?
  • Is there a way that I can write this text to make more people feel like “insiders”?

Questions about Power

Readers can ask…

  • How is the author using power in this text?
  • Does the author use his or her power to repeat stereotypes or to challenge them?
  • Does the author invite readers to critique the text or is the text positioned as so-called truth?
  • Who, or what benefits from the power in this text?
  • Who, or what would not benefit from the power in this text?
  • What power relations might the author have had to negotiate through the publishing of this text?

Writers can ask…

  • What power relations do I negotiate as I write this text?
  • How do I use my power as author?
  • Do I use my power to repeat stereotypes or challenge them? Repeat social injustices or challenge them?
  • How can I make a text that doesn’t claim to represent the so-called truth but acknowledges that there are multiple truths or perspectives?

Source: Jones, S. (2006). Girls, social class, and literacy: What teachers can do to make a difference. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

As I have experienced and explored this semester, I have come to be so much more cognizant of the world around me.  As a primary teacher next year, I really think it is important for my students to read the world around them.  In addition to reading the world around them, I also think as an activity to build community in the classroom, I would have students “read” each other.

Reading the Neighborhood Might Go Something Like This:

!) Kids and I have a discussion prior about what reading the world means.

2) Discuss things that are of concern to them, things they like, don’t like etc.

3)Kids and I come up with a guide/questionairre to help guide them through reading the world

4) Kids go out and “read the world”

5) As a whole group we come back together to discuss our findings/readings.

6) Discuss what it is we might like to do with these readings/why they are important/what they mean.

Similar to the activity on reading our neighborhood, I would set up reading our classmates.  I would ask students to come up with a list of questions they would like to know about each other and also talk about their assumptions/what they thought before.  I would explain and help them discuss that this is a way to find out things about each other we didn’t know or thought differently about and connect to this to how literacy affects us in every part of our lives.

This is only a brief synopsis of what I could do with these findings.  I could see this being part of the critical literacy framework for the entire school year :).

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems is a clever and powerful story about one particular mole rat who dares to be different.  Wilbur is different from all of the other mole rats in his colony in that he likes to wear clothing and is brave enough to show it. The other naked mole rats shun him and ridicule him for doing this.  Wilbur simply asks “why not” when the others challenge him as to why he is not naked.  The other mole rats are so bothered by Wilbur’s differences that they look to Grand-pah, the oldest, wisest, and most naked mole rat for some answers.  The other naked mole rats are surprised when Grand-pah’s reaction is far from what they expected.  Grand-pah supports Wilbur’s clothing-wearing and ponders the question of “why not” himself.  Grand-pah issues a new proclamation that it is acceptable to wear clothing if the naked mole rats wish to do so. Once the proclamation is issued, some of the other mole rats become brazen enough to show that they also enjoy wearing clothing.

The nature of the characters in this book lends itself to a rather neutral portrayal of society.  Both the pictures and the text portray only mole rats as the characters. The fact that there are no human beings in the story makes it relatable to all readers, regardless of race or background.  Children from a broad spectrum of socio-economic and educational backgrounds may feel comfortable with the story because the characters are represented as mole rats and there is no hint of class delineations among the rats.

Males would relate most to this text because of the gender of the main character in the story.  Wilbur is male, as is Grand-pah, who is seen as the respected leader of the mole rat community.  There is no mention of female characters in the text and there is only one or two illustrations of a female among the many male depictions.  Females are underrepresented in the story. Whether or not this is intentional or is simply representative of the real mole rat population remains unclear.

The underlying message in this story is to stand up for what you believe in and to dare to be different. The courage and independence that the main character, Wilbur demonstrates are valuable personality traits that a reader can learn from and identify with.   Subsequently, the reader understands that it is okay to be different and one may even be respected for their individuality.  To this end, children may be encouraged to become leaders as opposed to following the crowd.

The cues that led me to this interpretation were both present in the text and illustrations.  “’Why not, indeed?  Do clothes hurt anyone? No.  Are they fun?  Well, they may not be fun for everyone, but this old naked mole rat wishes he had tried getting dressed earlier’” (Willems, 2009, p. 27)!  The issue of posing questions is discussed in Using Controversial Books to Support Engagement, Diversity, and Democracy.”…students can make connections between the lives of people they read about in realistic fiction books and their own lives” (Lewison, Leland, Flint, & Moller, 2002 p.217).  Children’s questioning is a starting place for curriculum. It is clear that the opinion of Grand-pah is highly valued by the community of mole rats. Grand-pah is wise enough to re-evaluate the standards of society and shows that there is always room for reinterpretation and change.  Change can be beneficial.  On pages thirty-six and thirty-seven of the story, the illustrations show some of the mole rats naked and some of the mole rats clothed.  This is an example of an illustrative cue substantiating this interpretation.

One point to consider is the idea of social class represented in this story.  Wilbur demonstrates different walks of life by wearing different outfits and articles of clothing including uniforms and costumes.  “’I like clothes,’ replied Wilbur.  ‘When I get dressed I can be…’…fancy, or funny, or cool, or I can just be an astronaut’” (Willems, 2009, p.6-7).  The varied clothing types encourage the reader to use their imagination and fantasize.

Stephanie  Jones, in girls, social class & literacy brings up the point of privilege and accessibility to resources.  Wilbur can be seen as a privileged mole rat because of his accessibility to many different types of clothing and how easily he reaches these materials.  Moreover, privilege can be related to opportunity.  Wilbur is able to “try on” different roles in society. Opportunity is more available to those who have access to monetary goods.

Jones serves as a teacher, researcher, and mentor to eight young girls.  Similarly, Grand-pah shows the mole rats that with his leadership and support, dreams become possible.

The concept of bullying also comes to mind when reading Willems’ story.  Wilbur experiences both verbal and physical bullying from the other mole rats.  Wilbur learns to be a fighter and an advocate for what he believes in.  In Jones’ text, “Cadence hinted at her wondering of why fighting was such a way of life, but this didn’t interfere with her determination to be a fighter when she grows up” (Jones, 2006, p.39).  Although some may consider Cadence’s desire to be a fighter similar to that of a bully, Jones explains it as just someone who is determined to stand up for what they believe in and deserve.

One must also consider why there are few or no female characters in the story.  Female audiences may find it difficult to relate to the story or question why the Wilbur and Grand-pah are both male.

Further, it is important to pay attention to the idea that all of the naked mole rats are the same light, pink color.  It seems as though this story is speaking only to mole rats of this color.  It is questionable as to whether there are naked mole rats of other colors and why they are not represented in the story.  The reader may have difficulty relating to the story because he/she may be a different color than classmates or have never been in a situation where everybody was the same color or looked the same in his/her own community.

Fortunately, I have always been supported of my differences and my individuality has been celebrated.  Although Wilbur is male, I am easily able to identify with him as a character that possesses courage and a strong voice.  The reading connects to culture in the sense that the mole rats are a community.  They are all part of the same group.  The reading connects to power in that Grand-pah represents an omniscient character that the other mole rats look to for leadership.  The reading connects to literacy in that this is a story that children can both read and discuss.  There are opportunities of further discussion and ways to incorporate individual reflection. Overall, Willems’ work is a story that is fun, engaging, and easy to relate to for a wide variety of audiences.


Jones, S (2006). girls, social class, & literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinesman.

Lewison, M., Leland, C., Flint, A. S., & Moller, K. J. (2002). Dangerous discourses: Using                 controversial books to support engagement, diversity, and democracy. The New Advocate, 15(3), 215-226.

Willems, M (2009). Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.


I decided to include this critical reading of Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems because I think it shows how much I have changed my thinking about critical literacy. This was a critical reading that I did during my first course at TC this past summer, with Ellen Ellis as my instructor.

Throughout the analysis, I show some instances of deep thought and interpretation about the text yet there is so much that I did not uncover.  I partially believe that some of this is because I simply did not have as much access to the materials and information about engaging in critical literacy, while I also think that I just was merely as astute about what I was reading, and my wonderings.

One aspect that really grabbed my attention was my discussion around how the use of rats as characters avoids marginalizations and allows everyone to relate to the text.  As I have explored this semester, I know that this is not the case at all, and as a teacher of critical literacy I need to be cognizant of this.  There is so much more to pay attention to when critically reading a text, which can give the reader insight into who the text is really designed for, relatable for, and positioned for.

I think this critical paper demonstrates just how far I have come in my own literacy journey.  I am proud to say that I have come a very long way from how I thought when I wrote this, and I look forward to continuing my journey as a literacy leader.


  • None
  • Marjorie Siegel: This can be the greatest lesson of all to take into your career as a teacher!
  • Marjorie Siegel: This is such a powerful way to make critical literacy work meaningful in local settings and to focus on deconstruction, reconstruction, and social act
  • Marjorie Siegel: Another book that offers an excellent guild to critical literacy in a primary grade classroom is Vivian Vasquez's exploration of her own teaching with