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Literacy Achievement and Motivation Reconsidered: Linking Home and School Literate Practices for Struggling Adolescent Males

  • William G. BrozoEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Literacy Studies book series (LITS, volume 15)

Abstract

In this chapter I focus on the literate practices of low-achieving male adolescent readers. I do so by tracking the literate development of “Malik,” a biracial urban 10th grader with a history of academic failure and an active participant in the “mediasphere” (O’Brien DG “At-risk” adolescents: redefining competence through the multiliteracies of intermediality, visual arts, and representation. Reading Online 4(11) (2001)). I argue that male youth, like Malik, are using and creating forms of discourse that could be acknowledged and appreciated in school settings. I further assert that when room is made in school for boys’ out-of-school interests and literacies numerous opportunities arise for engaged reading (Brozo WG To be a boy, to be a reader: engaging teen and preteen boys in active literacy, 2nd edn. International Reading Association, Newark (2010); Brozo WG, Gaskins C Engaging texts and literacy practices for adolescent boys. In: Wood K, Blanton W (eds) Literacy instruction for adolescents: research-based practice. Guilford, New York, pp 170–186 (2009); Coles M, Hall C Boys, books and breaking boundaries: Developing literacy in and out of school. In W. Martino & B. Meyenn (Eds.), What about the boys? Issues of masculinity in schools. Buckingham, England: Open University, pp 211–221 (2001)). Engagement is a critical variable in the reading and academic lives of boys (Brozo WG, Gaskins C Engaging texts and literacy practices for adolescent boys. In: Wood K, Blanton W (eds) Literacy instruction for adolescents: research-based practice. Guilford, New York, pp170–186 (2009); Tatum AW. Engaging African American males in reading, Educational Leadership, 63, 44–49 (2006)). Lack of engagement with literacy is one of the most significant factors in accounting for boys’ lower attainment in relation to girls (Brozo WG, Moorman G, Meyer C Wham! Teaching with graphic novels across the curriculum. Teachers College Press, New York (2014); Lietz P. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 32, 317–344 (2006)). We know that boys of all ages fail in reading more often than girls (National Center for Educational Statistics Trends in NAEP: long-term trend assessment average reading scale scores and score gaps for students age 17, by gender: 1971–2008 (2008); OECD PISA 2009 results: learning to learn—student engagement, strategies and practices, vol III (2010)) and dominate the roles in corrective and remedial reading programs (Hunsdader PD. Principal. 82, 52–54 2002). In spite of what we know about the importance of gaining and sustaining students’ attention to reading and learning, teachers of male youth need ways of reversing the well-documented slump in achievement and motivation as they transition from primary to secondary school (Anderman EM, Maehr ML, Midgley C. declining motivation after the transition to middle school: Schools can make a difference, Journal of Research and Development in Education, 32, 131–147 (1999); Brozo WG. Thinking Classroom/Peremena, 6, 48–49 (2005)). The fallout from this slump appears to affect boys disproportionately (Alliance for Excellent Education The high cost of high school dropouts: what the nation pays for inadequate high schools. Author, Washington, DC (2007); Brozo WG. To be a boy, to be a reader: Engaging teen and preteen boys in active literacy. International Reading Association, Newark, DE (2002)) and has the most negative consequences for boys of color (Fashola O. Educating African American males. Thousand Oaks, Press, CA: Corwin (2005); Tatum A. Harv Educ Rev 78(1):155–180 (2008)). I document how Malik appears to be a struggling reader and writer in school when the contexts for literacy and learning fail to engage him or honor his interests and discourses. On the other hand, Malik is a competent language user when composing and reciting original raps with his “wingmen,” or when he’s asked to participate in academic learning that channels his outside-of-school competencies. I will demonstrate in this chapter that there are texts and practices capable of reaching disengaged and struggling male readers, like Malik. Teachers can discover the literate practices male youth engage in with alternative texts and media beyond the classroom walls, such as music and graphic novels, and weave these texts and practices into their instructional routines.

Keywords

Reading achievement Literacy engagement Male youth Out-of-school interests 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Mason UniversityVirginiaUSA

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