LINGUIST List 23.3079

Mon Jul 16 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics; Ling & Literature: Street & Hornberger (2010)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 16-Jul-2012
From: Amy Frederick <>
Subject: Literacy
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Announced at
EDITORS: Street, Brian V.; Hornberger, Nancy H.TITLE: LiteracySERIES TITLE: Encyclopedia of Language and Education, Volume 2PUBLISHER: SpringerYEAR: 2010

Amy R. Frederick, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, University of Minnesota


“Literacy” is the second in the ten-volume series, ‘Encyclopedia of Language andEducation,’ edited by Nancy H. Hornberger. The second edition of this seriesaims to chart the deepening and broadening of the field of language andeducation since the first edition was published in 1997. In Volume 2,Hornberger and Brian Street collect 26 articles representing an account ofcurrent knowledge in the literacy field. It covers a wide range of subjects fromnumerous geographical regions, provides considerations of the nature of thefield, and discusses how new ideas are being applied in varied contexts.Contributors from a variety of fields (e.g. history, anthropology, linguistics,and education) review what is known and unknown about the convergence ofliteracy, language, and education. The disparate perspectives create anexpansive landscape on the topic that, according to Street, results not insimple answers but in further complexity. Some of the key themes include readingacquisition across contexts, attention to social categories, language varieties,new technologies, and the policy and practice issues related to these issues incombination.

The volume is divided into three main sections, moving from a more theoreticalfocus to more contextualized accounts of literacy. In Section 1, “Literacies andSocial Theory,” the first ten chapters develop important theoretical frames andorganizational concepts in order to provide a foundation for the lattersections. Section 2, “Literacies and Social Institutions,” takes up many of theissues raised in the first section within the specific context of institutionsin which literacy practices are located, including, but not limited to,educational contexts. In Section 3, “Living Literacies -- Social and CulturalExperience,” the authors explore specific issues related to literacy within avariety of social and cultural environments. Each chapter is brief and shares acommon structure: introduction, early developments, work in progress, problemsand difficulties, and future directions.

In Chapter 1, “New Literacies, New Times: Developments in Literacy Studies,”Brian Street outlines current theoretical frameworks used in New LiteracyStudies, in multimodality, and in theories of technology, artifact, and “figuredworlds.” He brings to light some of the significant challenges facing educatorsand considers educational responses by different countries, asking how teachersdeal with the clash between traditional pedagogies and new frames of referencebrought about by technological advances.

In Chapter 2, “Critical Race Theory,” (CRT), Arlette Ingram Willis defines andprovides the basic concepts and tenets of CRT and locates it within educationaland literacy research across time. She points to the privilege of whiteness inteaching as well as in literacy research, calling for education scholars toaddress race, racism and power to explain the experiences of people of colorliving in racialized societies.

In Chapter 3, “Language, Literacy and Knowledge Production in Africa,” KwesiKwaa Prah provides a historical account of the development of African languagesand scripts and describes some of the current issues related to theirclassification. Prah poses questions about the role of English as a linguafranca on the continent and expresses concern about the near absence ofliterature written in African languages beyond religious texts. He is alsoconcerned about the 50% literacy rate in Africa. He declares, “Africandevelopment must mean the development of literacy in African languages” (p. 38).

In Chapter 4, “Literacy Myths,” Harvey Graff and John Duffy develop themesintroduced in the previous chapters while, examining the “literacy myth.” Theauthors define the “literacy myth” as an expression of the ideology that theacquisition of literacy is a necessary precursor to economic development,democracy, cognitive enhancement and social status. Graff and Duffy remind usthat literacy and education are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions of afunctioning democracy.

In Chapter 5, “Literacy and Internet Technologies,” Kevin Leander and CynthiaLewis focus on how networked technologies fundamentally change the relationshipsof literacy to social relations. Contributions in three categories are reviewed:multimodality, sociality and the intersection of the global and the local (i.e.“glocal”). Leander and Lewis describe important future directions on thesetopics, including the development of interdisciplinary approaches andtheoretical /methodological frames that will enable an understanding of powerrelations, identity constructs, and the changing uses of literacy.

In Chapter 6, “BICS and CALP: Empirical and Theoretical Status of theDistinction,” Jim Cummins describes his foundational theories of BasicInterpersonal Communicative Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic LanguageProficiency (CALP) and responds to recent critiques that the distinction isoversimplified and reflective of an “autonomous” notion of literacy. Cumminsargues that there is no contradiction between his theories and those of NewLiteracy Studies, saying that BICS/CALP is a useful construct within theeducational context. He concludes with an appeal for teachers, students, andresearchers to work together to push the boundaries of language and literacyexploration.

In Chapter 7, “Reading: Attitudes, Interests, Practices,” John Edwards arguesfor thinking beyond the skills and strategies necessary for reading and focusingmore on social and psychological factors. ‘Aliteracy,’ according to Edwards, maybe a more descriptive construct for many in modern societies than ‘illiteracy.’

In Chapter 8, “Gender and Literacy,” Gemma Moss provides an overview ofliterature addressing the relationship between gender and literacy. Shehighlights the recent shift in concern for the achievement of girls to boys,noting that this movement may be caused by the increased focus on outcomes-basedaccountability measures, whereon which boys are weaker than girls. She offersseveral explanations and approaches to the issue.

In Chapter 9, “Critical Literacy Education: On Living with ‘Innocent Language’,”Peter Freebody offers a thorough foundation in Critical Literacy Education(CLE), describing the theoretical and methodological contributions to it fromfields such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics, and pedagogy. According toFreebody, a core concern is interrupting and naming socialization and findingprincipled, teachable ways of affording an appreciation of social organization,human conduct, and language. However, more work is needed which centers on howthis looks in practice, as well as on empirically examining the consequences ofsuch instruction.

In Chapter 10, “Biliteracy and Globalization,” Viniti Vaish synthesizes someimportant ideas from globalization and biliteracy, looking in particular at twoof her own studies taking place in India and Singapore. She asks what abiliterate text looks like in a globalizing world and how these changes mayimpact bilingual classrooms.

In Section 2, the authors cover much of the same territory as that of theprevious section, however, there is specific emphasis on contextual factors.Most of the chapters in this section address educational issues, both in formalinstitutions as well as in the wider community. The remaining chapters take uptopics of Family and Community Literacies, highlighting international projects.

In Chapter 11, ''Informal Learning and Literacy,'' Alan Rogers explores informal(natural) literacy learning processes undertaken by adults. Current work in thisarea lies in three main fields: perceptions of literacy, the acquisition ofliteracy skills, and the practice of literacy. Rogers calls for furtherattention to the interaction between informal and formal learning.

In Chapter 12, ''Second Language Academic Literacies: Converging Understandings,''Contant Leung focuses on the use of English as a second language in academicdiscourse, particularly in written forms. She describes the influentialtheoretical framework known as Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), whichemphasizes active communicative language use in order to develop academicEnglish. She goes on to problematize this approach and offer an analyticalframework, based on three inter-related authorial selves, as a useful device fordiscovering how language is actually used in academic settings.

In Chapter 13, ''Family Literacy,'' Vivian Gadsden provides a substantive historyof the field from its inception in the 1960s and notes the shift over time fromdeficit perspectives to those that incorporate variation and differences. Shechallenges future researchers and practitioners to create new frameworks thatcapture the particular ways that diverse families engage in literate acts acrossa variety of social contexts.

In Chapter 14, ''Women, Literacy and Development: Overview,'' Anna Robinson-Pantreviews programs aimed at increasing women’s literacy. She asserts that manywomen's literacy programs adopt a functional literacy approach and emphasizesocial results, rather than reading and writing outcomes. She advocates formovement towards a ''rights perspective'' that connects women's literacy tocitizenship.

In Chapter 15, ''A Community Literacy Project: Nepal,'' Roshan Chitrakar and BryanMaddox describe a community literacy project in Nepal that incorporates localmeanings and uses of literacy. They discuss incongruities between the localmeanings of literacy and international discourses of development.

In Chapter 16, ''Community Literacy Practices and Education: Australia,'' TrevorCiarney reviews what is known about the relationship between community literacyand education, particularly within Australia. He summarizes recent explorationsin community literacy that acknowledge complex definitions of literacy andcommunity.

Chapter 17, ''Academic Literacies in Theory and Practice,'' Mary Lea uses academicliteracies as a way of framing our understanding of student writing in highereducation. Drawing from New Literacy Studies, the term 'academic literacies'signals a concern with writing as a social practice and recognizes amultiplicity of practices. Lea highlights the changing nature of texts andpractices in academic contexts.

In Chapter 18, ''Literacies In and Out of School in The United States,'' KatherineSchultz and Glynda Hull explore research on the relationships and borders ofliteracy in and out of school. They claim that, ''The persisting challenge in anage of accountability and testing, narrowing conceptions of literacy, andgrowing socioeconomic disparities, is how to bridge out-of-school and in-schoolworlds in ways that make discernible, positive differences in youth's presentcircumstances and social futures'' (p. 239).

In Chapter 19, ''Literacies in the Classroom,'' David Bloome summarizes researchon the nature of official literacy practices in schools, noting a recent focuson cultural and power dimensions. Many of the topics from prior chapters aretaken up again within the context of formal classroom instruction. Bloomepredicts three major changes that are likely to influence classroom literacypractice in the future: the increasing integration of digital literacies intoour lives; increasing racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity; and culturaland economic globalization.

Finally, Section 3 provides an in-depth exploration of previously raised issuesassociated with literacy for people in different social and culturalenvironments. Issues such as identity construction, new literacies, urban andrural literacies, multilingualism, and language policy and ideology are raisedagain in these contexts.

In Chapter 20, ''Literacies and Ethnolinguistic Diversity: Chicago,'' Marcia Farrpresents a historical linguistic survey of Chicago and hypothesizes about theimplications of language variation on literacy learning. Literacy practicesconstruct important aspects of identity and are linked to events, people, andinstitutions, and thus, research on the ethnolinguistic diversity in Chicago hasonly begun to describe the myriad of ways in which people there use variouslanguages.

In Chapter 21, ''Language Diversity and Indigenous Literacy in the Andes,'' IngeSichra reviews indigenous literacy in the Andes, focusing on languages that havesurvived Spanish language rule. Sichra asserts that Andean governments lack thepolitical will to promote writing and literacy in indigenous languages asinstruments of power. There exists a strong belief that Spanish decoding skillshave intrinsic value and are required for citizenship. She argues that educationmust take an integrated perspective of literacy that would develop localteaching practices and honor existing social practices that exist within thecommunity.

In Chapter 22, ''Literacies in the Lives of Urban Youth,'' Jabari Mahiri shows thebenefits of incorporating glocal literacies with more traditional views withurban youth. From a new literacies perspective, Mahiri describes recent researchexploring the influences of hip-hop culture on the literacy practices andlearning of youth worldwide.

In Chapter 23, ''Literacies In and Out of School in South Africa,'' Pippa Steinwrites about literacy learning in a country engaged in the process of recoveryand reconstruction after centuries of racism, violence and oppression. Sheclaims that the damaging effects of apartheid and poverty continue in people'slives in many ways, including unequal access to quality education and literacylearning. She points out that the majority of South African children arestruggling to become successful readers and writers in any language, thoughinstruction is usually in English. She calls for professional development forteachers and wider access to literacy materials.

In Chapter 24, ''Literacies in Latin America,'' Judy Kalman provides a broadhistorical perspective on this heterogeneous region, beginning with theinception of school as a social institution in the 1950s. She looks in to theinterconnectedness of socioeconomics, the history of literacy, the role ofschooling, and educational policies in the region. Research in this area aims tofurther understand ''the factors and processes that contribute to thedissemination of written culture, explain why literacy is not always rapidlyembraced, and recognize the complexity of literacy practices'' (p. 326).

In Chapter 25, ''African American Literacies,'' Elaine Richardson traces thehistorical roots of African American literacies since school desegregation. Shedefines the topic as the ''concept that African American cultural identities,social locations, and social practices influence ways that members of thisdiscourse group make meaning and assert themselves sociopolitically insubordinate as well as official contexts'' (p. 335). There is a focus on AfricanAmerican Vernacular English and its role in education in this chapter.

In Chapter 26, ''City Literacies,'' Eve Gregory reviews literature documenting thehistory and development of city literacies, highlights recent contributions, andconcentrates on individuals becoming literate in the twentieth century inLondon. Historical studies, she writes, provide a contrasting view of cities asboth lively and educated hubs as well as centers of poverty and illiteracy.Gregory also foregrounds her own project, 'City Literacies,' in which she makesthe argument that home literacies should not be seen as a factor of schoolfailure, but rather as a strength that equips children with advantages ratherthan problems.


The objective of this volume, as stated by the editors, Hornberger and Street,is to provide an encyclopedic account of current knowledge in the field, and“something more” (p. xiii). In addition to laying a historical foundation of theliterature, the authors aspire to set forth new and cutting edge directions forresearch as well as its application in a variety of contexts. The chapters arewritten by standout thinkers representing a variety of fields from around theglobe. The expertise collected here is invaluable. Key themes are defined andexplained, but beyond that, they are exemplified through the projects and casesdescribed by the authors. After reading the collection, one is not only leftwith a clear understanding of important issues but also the complexities withinand around them. Questions of methodology, theoretical perspective, andcontextual diversity are not over-simplified but rather presented in all theirambiguity. “Literacy” represents a significant contribution to our understandingof the nexus of language and literacy in current educational contexts.

This volume, along with the others in this series, is certain to become apractical and valued resource at academic institutions. The book can be read inits entirety, or chapter-by-chapter, as interest dictates. The‘before-during-after’ structure of each chapter provides cohesion andpredictability for a reader making his/her way through the entire volume.Graduate students and those who are new to the literature base or those lookingfor a “jump start” in a particular area will find the chapters useful, though itmay prove superfluous for more expert readers. In this vein, one constructiveaddition to the volume, especially for novice scholars, would be a list ofseminal readings and/or researchers for each of the major topics addressed. Inaddition, the volume would benefit from a synthesizing final chapter to pulltogether the breadth of issues and pose some final directions for this body ofliterature.

One question that arises is the timeliness and access of the publication. Meantto be “state-of-the-art (p. xi)” and provide and up-to-date summary of theresearch, some of the chapters suffer from references to obsolete technologicalinnovations. This schism is particularly poignant because of the importancegiven to adapting to new literacies within the book. One recommendation is thatthe editors consider a more adaptive, interactive, Web 2.0 format for the seriesthat can be easily distributed, rather than a hard copy revision every ten yearsthat goes out of date before it even makes it to the bookshelves of institutions.

In conclusion, “Literacy” provides a comprehensive description of key themes andissues related to literacy and language as well as an accessible yetthought-provoking reading experience. It will surely prove useful to scholarsand educators who seek to understand the theoretical foundations, complexities,and future directions of language and literacy in diverse educational contexts.


Amy Frederick is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota, and a research fellow at the Minnesota Center for Reading Research. She is an ESL teacher, teacher educator, and a researcher. Her research interests include literacy and ESL/bilingual education in elementary schools. Her PhD research explores how a team of elementary ESL and general educators use data to collaboratively design reading instruction for linguistic minority students.

Page Updated: 16-Jul-2012