NRC Revised 2010

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This is the real revised presentation. Somehow I resent the first draft yesterday.

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NRC Revised 2010

  1. 1. Talking Back to Books Outgrowing Ourselves Jerome C. Harste Vivian Vasquez
  2. 2. Learning to unpack the underlying systems of meaning that are Operating within children’s books Materials: “Social Issues” Children’s Literature Willy and Hugh Sister Anne’s Hands Into the Forest Faithful Elephants Participants: 30 teachers working on their master’s degree in Literacy at Mount Saint Vincent University. 20 with complete data and used in this analysis. Time Frame: Monthly meetings from September, 2009 to October, 2010 Data Collection: Hugh and Willy (September 2009) Sister Anne’s Hands (May 2010) Into the Forest (September 2010) Faithful Elephants (October 2010)
  3. 3. 3 Questions 1. What issues or stereotypes do you see being addressed? 2. What do you find problematic? 3. How does this text position you as a reader?
  4. 4. Data Analysis 1. As researchers we went through each book to identify what systems of meaning (issues, stereotypes, underlying messages) we saw operating or on offer. [Later, we present these in terms of their explicitness based on participants’ ability to identify them.] 2. We then went through each participant’s responses (collected on 4x6 index cards) to see how many of these systems of meaning were identified by each participant and if they identified systems of meaning we ourselves had not identified. We specifically were Interested in whether participants were growing in their ability to identify messages not directly signed by words or pictures in each text.
  5. 5. Willy and Hugh – Underlying Messages Nerds are little. Bullies are big. Bullies disrupt belonging which causes marginalization. Nerds are weak, wimpy. Big are mean, tough. Courage is not related to size. Nerds are smart. There is always someone bigger, meaner, tougher. Little people need big people to protect them. Empowering others makes everyone feel better about themselves. Big is dumb. Difference is bad. Big is scary, intimidating. Bullies are boys. One needs friends to be happy. Names reflect personalities. Nerds wear sweater vests and chinos. Don’t judge people by their physical appearance.
  6. 6. Willy and Hugh – Messages Participants Identified That We Didn’t Jocks are bullies. The relationship between apes and monkeys parallel the relationship between bullies and nerds.
  7. 7. Data Coding Examples “Buster Nose went away when Hugh, who is much bigger, asked if there was a problem.” CODED: There is always someone bigger, meaner, tougher. “The book teaches you that two different people can get along.” CODED: Unlike characters can have meaningful relationships. “Kid-Protector.” CODED: Little people need big people to protect them. “Intellectuals are non-physical.” DOUBLE CODED: Nerds are smart; Nerds are weak, wimpy. “Strong people are ‘less’ intellectual.” CODED: Bullies are dumb. “
  8. 8. Willy and Hugh – Underlying Messages Nerds are little…………………………………………………………………………………………..12 Bullies are big…………………………………………………………………………………………....11 Bullies disrupt belonging which causes marginalization………………………….….11 Nerds are weak, wimpy…………………………………………………………………………...….8 Big are mean, tough………………………………………………………………………………...….8 Unlikely characters can have meaningful relationships……………………………..…8 Courage is not related to size…………………………………………………………………...….7 Nerds are smart……………………………………………………………………………………….....6 There is always someone bigger, meaner, tougher…………………………………… ...5 Little people need big people to protect them………………………………………….….4 Empowering others makes everyone feel better about themselves……………..4 Big is dumb……………………………………………………………………………………………...…..3 Difference is bad……………………………………………………………………………………………3 Big is scary, intimidating………………………………………………………………………………..3 Bullies are boys…………………………………………………………………………………………..…2 One needs friends to be happy………………………………………………………………………2 Names reflect personalities……………………………………………………………………………2 Nerds wear sweater vests and chinos…………………………………………………………….1 Don’t judge people by their physical appearance………………………………………..…0
  9. 9. Willy and Hugh – Messages Participants Identified That We Didn’t Jocks are bullies.--------------------------------------------------------------------------1 The relationship between apes and monkeys parallel the relationship between bullies and nerds.--------------------------------2 TOTAL: 103 (5.15 messages per individual on the average)
  10. 10. Sister Anne’s Hands – Underlying Messages Being a minority member in a dominant culture causes problems-------------------- 13 Teachers should be of the same ethnicity as the students they teach----------------12 Powerful institutions, like churches, have a particular social responsibility to wash their dirty laundry in public rather than sweep it under the rug-------11 Parents have a right to pull their children out of class if they are unhappy with the quality of the teaching-----------------------------------------------------------10 Nuns are representative of a church that teaches tolerance, equality and acceptance--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------10 In a democracy all people have a right to belong-------------------------------------------5 Larger social forces influence childhood beliefs and attitudes---------------------------5 Parents should be careful about what they say in front of children--------------------4 Explicit racial slurs are unacceptable-----------------------------------------------------------3 Forgive wrong-doing: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you--------2 The unknown is something to be avoided-----------------------------------------------------2
  11. 11. Sister Anne’s Hands – Messages Continued In a democracy the majority rules even when the decision is wrong----------1 Ignorance of one’s history perpetuates old wrongs--------------------------------1 Cities tolerate differences better than small communities------------------------1 It is important to address racism early in life-----------------------------------------1 MESSAGES PARTICIPANTS IDENTIED THAT WE DIDN’T Racism is somehow “Very American”--------------------------------------------------2 Race (Black) trumps everything, including being a nun----------------------------1 As teachers nuns are strict----------------------------------------------------------------1 TOTAL: 85 (4.25 messages per individual on the average)
  12. 12. Into the Forest – Underlying Messages Intact families give children security; single-parent families, absent father families, or broken families are associated with fear, anxiety, and insecurity---------------------------------------------------------------16 Fairy tales often play with the notion of children left to their own devices and often have characters that act like wolves--------------------------------10 Adults reinforce fears by not offering explanations---------------------------------10 Forests are dark and scary where bad things happen-------------------------------8 Girls need protection; boys can be left on their own--------------------------------7 Mothers stay at home; fathers don’t----------------------------------------------------7 Even children have an obligation to help others in need---------------------------7 Color in pictures signal safety whereas black and white signal scary------------6 Boys ignore rules----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6 Women (girls) are nurturers; men (boys) are not-------------------------------------6 Old women (grandmothers) are both weak and fragile-----------------------------2 Children are lost and rather helpless without an adult around--------------------2 Authors use stormy weather to signal that something is amiss-------------------0
  13. 13. Into the Forest – Messages Participants Identified That We Didn’t Children in certain cultural groups are more likely to be raised in absent father families than are children in other cultural groups--------2 Children are vulnerable--------------------------------------------------------------------1 Men (boys) don’t cry------------------------------------------------------------------------1 TOTAL: 91 (4.5 messages per individual on the average)
  14. 14. Evening the Odds Because stories had unequal messages to be uncovered one has to look at hit rate: Willy and Hugh 21 messages 103 hits = 4.91 hit rate Sister Anne’s Hands 18 messages 85 hits = 4.73 hit rate Into the Forest 16 messages 91 hits = 5.69 hit rate
  15. 15. Conclusions As a group participants did get more critical, although minimally and slowly. Supporting teachers in taking on a critical stance calls for a long-term investment in time and effort on everyone’s part. As a group participants were much better at identifying explicit messages in text (signed by either words or pictures) than they were at identifying implicit messages. . . .
  16. 16. Conclusions Continued After responses had been collected we had whole class discussions of the book. These discussions were misleading as we felt participants were growing more than they were. Collectively they were able to identify almost every implicit and explicit message. These observations support: (1) the power of collaboration, as well as (2) the fact that our (both the participants and the researcher’s) rhetoric often gets ahead of our ability to apply what we know.
  17. 17. Conclusions Continued There is an old Cree saying, “To say the name is to begin the story.” Participants initially did a lot of “naming” – bullying, racism, abandonment – without fully articulating the system of meaning they saw operating. Over time and the opportunity to unpack lots of texts they came to be able to elaborate the systems of meaning they saw operating. Initially participants relied on the frameworks they had been taught to use in comprehending texts rather than to critically deconstruct the stories we presented. Early responses showed that participants had learned their district inservice lessons almost too well as responses were full of “text to self,” “text to text,” and “text to world” connections. (Example of “text to world” connection: “As a reader I am to accept her removal from the school based on her race. Despite the fact that this is not directly mentioned, I feel it to be true. Especially since the story takes place during the time of Martin Luther King Jr.” – Gina). .
  18. 18. Conclusions Continued Initially participants read the “What do you find problematic ?” question very personally: “I found the use of metaphors very problematic” (Cathy); “I find it problematic that the child’s parents presented a problem to her that she would not have considered” (Lori). It took time for participants to understand “the problematic” as messages being explicitly and implicitly endorsed by the text.
  19. 19. Conclusions Continued No participant was outstanding. Paddy probably identified the most implicit and explicit messages on the average (6.67) whereas the class as a group typically each identified 4 or 5. Nonetheless, participants were insightful: Willy and Hugh: “Willy never got to be strong on his own. He was strong only in Hugh’s presence.” – Lori “I am interested by the images and animals used to represent Willy and Hugh….I wonder about the use of them to represent intellectual ability, race, and gender.” -- Gina
  20. 20. Insightful Comments Continued Into the Forest: “Expecting a wolf, but instead just got a few irresponsible grown-ups!!” -- Michael “Sketchy places always have sketchy people.” -- Kristan “What I’m made to accept is that when people don’t like something, they just “leave,” they don’t “act.” --Lisi Sister Anne’s Hands: “I felt aligned with the narrator despite the fact that her values did not agree with me?! A strange perspective but perhaps it is harder to be critical when – as a narrative techniqu – the “storyteller” is a vulnerable child…” -- Paddy
  21. 21. Interesting Comments Sister Anne’s Hands: “The children (or maybe just Anna?) feel guilty when Sister Anne reacts with silence to the airplane, but I think her gentleness and forgiveness is atypical. I think it also suggests that it’s okay to treat black people in this manner because they will accept and forgive.” --Catherine “Should kid books be the vehicle for adult lessons? -- Morgan “All too often we tend to forget or lose sight of the need to do right once a matter is out of sight. In this case Sister Anne’s transfer may be a forgotten matter for most and they move on, while for Sister Anne this issue may continue elsewhere.” -- Tony
  22. 22. Culminating Experience As a culminating experience we read Faithful Elephants to the participants and asked how they would use this book in their curriculum. We then gave them an article called “History Into Myth” by Kawabata & Vandergrift which argues that Faithful Elephants was written as propaganda to convince Japanese children to hate Americans. Further, no such incident occurred at the Eno Zoo and the book, they document, is far from “a true story” as the cover states. Following reading the article, we asked participants to revisit how they might use the book in their curriculum. We were interested to see if after working with these participants for an entire year, they would elect to censor (or not use) the book. Happily no one censored the use of the book, though 3 participants said they would not use it with lower elementary students as they thought that children at that age were too sensitive and needed to be protected from such a harsh reality. The question we now have is, “If a teacher sees her or his role as protecting the Innocence of children, can she, in fact, become a critical educator?

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