At-Risk Youth and Literacy

Developed by Leigh Pogue, Summer 2005

Alliance for Excellent Education. How to Know a Good Adolescent Literacy Program When You See One: Quality Criteria to Consider. May 2004.

This brief focuses on school literacy programs that are meant to catch up students who are reading and writing at a lower grade level then they are in. Because of the school emphasis, the criteria revolve more around meeting standards and measuring achievement. The information is mostly useful for formal literacy programs that are focused more on education then creative writing. The evaluation methods include looking more at the programs addressing comprehension, phonics, and vocabulary.

DelliCarpini, Margo. “English Language Instruction for Incarcerated Youth.”Center for Applied Linguistics May 2003. (19 Aug. 2005).

DelliCarpini looks at how English Language instruction can help linguistically and culturally diverse incarcerated youth. DelliCarpini highlights problems that are specific to incarcerated youth and then looks at factors to consider when designing programs for incarcerated youth, such as disabilities, respect, and motivation. This article has a good overview of problems that are specific to incarcerated youth and gives a few good suggestions of techniques to utilize in a literacy program. Overall, the article is broad and mostly introduces a problem area and some possible solutions.

Dorsey-Gaines, Catherine, and Denny Taylor.Growing up Literate: Learning from Inner-city Families. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1988.

Through the observation of four inner-city families that have a successful first grade reader, Dorsey-Gaines and Taylor come to the conclusion that the stereo-types of inner city life are wrong and that each family is unique. They believe that assumptions about inner-city families need to be displaced and that literacy needs to be made relevant to the students’ social lives outside of schools. The research for this book was done in the 1980s and therefore the book is fairly dated. Today the general public realizes what Dorsey-Gaines and Taylor are advocating, that the problems inner-city families face are very complex. Growing Up Literate provides strong first hand accounts to help dispel myths about inner-city families, but doesn’t point to any strong solution.

Flippo, Rona F., and Charles Hetzel. “Creating a Student Literacy Corps in a Diverse Community.” Phi Delta Kappan 78.8 (1997). 644.

The authors describe the Literacy Corps Program set up in Fitchburg Massachusetts, a town that has a diverse population and a state college. The program’s goal is to “create and nurture literacy opportunities” for the entire population and to help participants develop appreciation for their culturally diverse community. The program involves a course at the college for students who want to tutor participants. The description of the program is very thorough and the outcomes are also posted. It’s an excellent source to see how a university can pair up with the community to help develop literacy. Both authors are co-directors of the Literacy Corps program.

Goldstein, Rebecca A. “Who Are Our Urban Students and What Makes Them so ‘Different’?” 19 Urban Questions: Teaching in the City. Ed. Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe. Peter Lang: New York, 2004. 41-51

After teaching in the inner city, Goldstein argues in her essay that the stereotypes about inner-city students are wrong. She encourages people to explore and challenge the myths of the gang member, poor, abandoned, inner-city student. She has found that her students are successful when she believes in them and expects their best. She highlights the fact that inner city students are different, but not in the stereotypical ways. Often their differences are because of the politics of their lives. This chapter mostly works to encourage the reader to challenge his/her perceptions of inner-city youth.

Holder, Winthrop. “How can Urban Students Become Writers?” Urban Questions: Teaching in the City. Ed. Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe. Peter Lang: New York, 2004. 173-206.

As a history teacher in an urban high school Holder looks at what made his students successful writers. His observations come from having been the faculty sponsor of a literary magazine called Crossing Swords, which was published by students who were in the Society of Social Analysis. Holder concludes that urban students need topics that are personal and emotional. They also need to have the opportunity to write beyond their teachers and their classrooms. The journal acted as a bridge between the school, community, faculty and students. Holder’s essay primarily looks at this journal and comments made by students who participated in it. It gives support for literacy development through writing projects such as Zines.

Hynds, Susan. On the Brink: Negotiating Literature and Life with Adolescents. New York: Teachers College Press, 1997.

Hynds spends three years studying a middle school English classroom. Hynds highlights the importance of critical constructivist approaches to the classroom. She realizes though that this approach is challenging and that teachers will struggle while implementing this type of pedagogy in their classrooms. Hynds recognizes the political, social, and cultural impacts that the middle school classroom experiences. On the Brinkis rich with personal accounts of the teacher and the students and also includes what happens to the students after they leave middle school. This book is written towards teachers, but it approachable enough for anyone to read who is interested in how to interact with middle school children.

Imel, Susan. “Youth In Adult Basic and Literacy Education Programs.” ERIC Information Analyses 2003. www.ericacve.org/pubs.asp. (19 Aug. 2005).

Imel argues that more and more adult literacy classes have to accommodate youth under the age of 18. With this change in the participants these programs have had to change their structures. According to Imel the reasons for youth enrollment are varied, as are the responses of the programs. Having youth join an adult program can create a “popular versus tradition ‘culture clash’.” To accommodate youth some programs have developed separate classes, some have decided to keep the number of youth relatively low in each class, or others have implemented strict attendance policies. Imel looks at different responses to the problem of a shortage of youth literacy programs, but doesn’t say which is the best response.

Leto, Lyn. “Good Citizens through Literacy Network. A 353 Project Final Report.”Pennsylvania State Department of Education. 1994.

An adult basic education class in Schuylkill County Prison has parolees apply their new reading, writing and oral communication skills by writing newsletters and speaking to selected classes of at-risk youth. The report is very thorough, including an introduction, program objective and results, and an example of the newsletter. It’s a strong example of pairing up previously incarcerated men and women with at-risk youth, benefiting both groups.

Lin, Chai-Hul. “Literacy Instruction through Communicative and Visual Arts.”The Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and communication at Indiana University. Dec. 2003. ( 19 Aug. 2005).

Lin looks at data and research that has supported the effectiveness of literacy instruction using multi-media and visual elements. Mostly the information presented is known throughout the education community. This article helps to provide the solid evidence to support using TV, comics, and computers in the classroom or in other educational situations, but doesn’t develop an specific ideas to use in the classroom.

Singh, Manjari. “Literacy Interventions in Low Resource Environment: An International Perspective.” The Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and communication at Indiana University. Dec. 2002. . (19 Aug. 2005).

Singh looks at literacy programs in Nigeria, Australia, and the United States. Singh believes that out-of-school literacy activities can help students have better literacy skills acquisition in school. Singh doesn’t go into a lot of in depth description or analysis on the successes of these programs. In looking at these three literacy programs Singh finds that parental involvement and connection to the community are key in the programs.

Taylor, Sheryl V. “Making Literacy Real for ‘High-risk’ Adolescent Emerging Readers: An Innovative Application of Readers’ Workshop.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 44.4 (2001): 308.

Taylor describes a residential treatment facility and school that utilized readers’ workshop and children’s books to help its students develop new literacy experiences and change their perceptions of reading to an activity that is enjoyable. The readers’ workshop focuses on a learner-centered approach that connects the students with their past literacy experiences. The facility that Taylor is observing sounds very similar to Turning Point; a diverse group of young men who have a history of delinquent behavior. Her description is focused and includes a rationale, program implementation and final reflections.