I face the challenge of interconnecting ideas. When I encounter a thought-provoking book such as this one, I both associate and resist various ideas and memories of the classroom, students, philosophy, and fiction.
While at times I see such interconnectedness as an obstacle frustrating my simple enjoyment of a book, many times I feel each connection as an intimate part of my transaction with a text.
The back and forth, the push and pull — nebulous, binary, contrary — describe the innumerable voyages that readers like me have taken. Like me, Joseph Rodriguez, author of Enacting Adolescent Literacies Across Communities, found refuge in his school library and in the books and librarian and authors residing there.
His book, subtitled Latino/a Scribes And Their Rites, is both a handbook of effective literacy instruction and a catalyst for both more intertextual connections and new approaches that invite all students, not just Latinos/as, to a fondness for literacies.
I use the plural — literacies — because Rodriguez is careful throughout his book to enumerate the various ways young people can engage with words and ideas in the communities they inhabit. The classic modalities of reading, writing, speaking, and listening continue to be enacted as literacies; but he persuades us that becoming literate in history, for instance, involves the interest and ability to ask whose history, and by extension why this history?; and then to enact their growing understandings in their communities, through multiple literacies: I think of learners creating documentaries, interviewing family members and activists, apprenticing in ancient handicrafts, volunteering at museums, or teaching others the relevance of great books – old and new.
His book makes me want to wrestle with, cheer for, and work alongside with such teachers, librarians, and students.
The best thing this book does for me is to convince me that teacher education programs in this country have not given up but, on the contrary, have
turned their very resistance into the art of teaching
signified by the Master of Arts degree, and represented by the author and his pre-service teacher-practitioners. If such programs are successful, in whatever regions and for whatever populations are served by teachers who care less about a test performance and more about whole human beings, they may restore hope in public and private schools which have chased dehumanizing business models, fragmented texts, outdated grading systems, isolated subject knowledge, and chased away some youth by disengaging learning from schooling.
Rodriguez’s book is a shot in the arm for public and private secondary school and college teachers. It goes a long way toward restoring my hope in the future for students and their teachers.
[Images: a. Creative Commons no attribution, Clkr-free-vector-images located by Pixabay; b. GH (l) with J Rodríguez in Washington, D.C. 2015.]