Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mahogany adolescent literacy identities: Nurturing relationships with literacy as if our lives depended on it
by Ainsworth, LaTwila T., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2016, 240; 10243752
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation study examined how adolescent students who identify as Black, i.e., African American, Caribbean American, and African, in an urban comprehensive public high school characterized their relationships with literacy. A narrative analysis methodological framework was utilized to trace and document students’ formative primary and secondary exposures to reading and writing. The theoretical lenses of New Literacy Studies and critical literacy were employed to elucidate the in school and out-of-school literacy experiences of these minoritized adolescents and to determine how those experiences influenced their attitudes about literacy. Drawing upon multiple data sources: 1) literacy autobiographies; 2) semi-structured interviews; 3) 8th grade English Language Arts (ELA) Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores; and 4) 9th grade fall and spring semester ELA report card grades, enabled me to capture a rich, nuanced description of the scholars’ literacy identities and development, academic achievement, and relationships with academic literacies.

Several provocative thematic patterns emerged from this study. Some of the most striking findings detailed how many of the scholars: a) self-identified as authors and had a personal affinity for writing; b) grew up with a strong sense of intergenerational literacies at home; c) developed an astute cognizance about diverse literary genres and text selection in order to avoid boredom; d) enacted multiliteracies and engaged in online (me)search to access supplemental curricular resources, search for spiritual understanding and enlightenment, research background information for personal writing projects, and to engage in the independent study of extracurricular activities like teaching oneself another language, ballet, and Pilates. Another key finding revealed that several students overcame being held back a grade, and did not allow that experience to define their literacy or academic identities.

The analysis of the students’ complex literacy profiles showcased that overall these Black adolescents had positive and intimate identifications with literacy. More importantly, their narratives served as counter-narratives to the dominant discourses about Black youth as their literacy practices painted a very different portrait of Black adolescent literacies and intellectualism; even though, many of the essential elements of their academic and literacy identities were nearly undetectable by school records and transcripts.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gadsden, Vivian L.
Commitee: Harper, Shaun R., Ravitch, Sharon M.
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Reading, Writing, Literacy
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 78/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Black studies, Secondary education
Keywords: Adolescent literacies, Black and African American literacies, Counter-narrative, Literacy autobiography, New literacy studies, Urban education
Publication Number: 10243752
ISBN: 9781369468946
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