What is Critical Literacy?

Dyson (2000) defines critical literacy as continuing process of learning that enables students to use speaking, thinking, reading, writing, listening to, evaluating and effectively constructs meaning, interact, and communicate in real-life situations. Students are continually learning, reflecting, thinking, and assume responsibility for continuing to grow and develop their literacy. According to Anderson (1994) literacy development starts at birth and is formed by cultural values and beliefs, prior knowledge, and social interactions. When students are trying to process new information they use prior knowledge to build a foundation to solve problems, share ideas and meaningful construction, to build development.

It is important to make sure that the next generation has literacy skills to survive and thrive in the 21st century. Tests will continue to be important gauges of student’s abilities to use English; standardized vocabulary and comprehension tests show that basic skills are learned well when literature is plentiful and times to write imaginatively are frequent. Critical literacy can also have a dramatic effect on writing. Students who read books, with well developed literacy elements, write with higher quality, use more complex sentences, use more variety of literacy forms (genre) , and include a greater range of poetic devices (rhythm, rhyme, repetition, alliteration) (Dressell, 1990).

What is the Significance of Critical Literacy as it relates to Adolescents?

Critical literacy is significant because it provokes higher order thinking. Students must use higher order thinking skills (HOTS) to analyze and make sense of these problems (Moll, 1994). Techniques such as put your thumb up when you find the problem engage analytic thinking, and students can be guided through the creative problem-solving process to gather data and brainstorm solutions. Such predications increase active engagement and encourage the creative problem solving skills necessary for family living and workplace success.

Critical literacy creates inferences that help students connect the ideas behind the words, comprehend, and analyze. Critical literacy help students understand style as well as to examine how words are used in special ways: Figurative language is the use of words to stand for other things: Imagery: appeals to the five senses of smell, hearing, taste, feel or texture, and vision. Such language triggers concrete images that engage a reader or listener. Metaphors: are comparisons that create mental images because they connect something familiar with something less familiar. Alliteration: the repetition of the same sound in a series of words. It refers to beginning sounds. Assonance: the repletion of vowel sounds any place in a series of words. Personification: giving of human traits, such as feeling, actions, and the ability to speak, to animals or objects (Moll, 1994).

The literacy experience extends beyond the text as students explore additional ideas that grow from their responses when the teacher can get students to stretch and explore, into new areas of experience, the literature will have served its purpose well, and the students would have grown as a result. When students are learning to respond critically they are like any artist just starting out; they are afraid they won’t get it right. But fresh new ideas do not flow from a mind fixed on right answers. It is important to get students to share examples, ask questions to model critical literacy. Creativity is also encouraged by giving choices.

Anderson,, R. (1994). Role of the Reader’s Schema in Comprehension, Learning, and Memory. In Ruddell, R. B., Ruddell, M. R., Singer, H. (Eds.). Theoretical models and processes of reading, 4th ed. (pp.469-482). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Dressel, J. (1990). The effects of listening to and discussing different qualities
Of children’s literature on the narrative writing of fifth graders. Research
In the Teaching of English, 24, 397-414.

Dyson, A. (2000). Writing the Sea of voices: Oral Language In, Around, and About
Writing. In Indrisano, R., & Squire, J. R. Perspectives on writing: Research,
theory, and practice. (pp. 45-65). Newark, DE: International Reading

Moll, L. (1994). Literacy Research in Community and Classrooms: A Sociocultural
Approach. In Ruddell, R. B., Ruddell, M. R., Singer, H. (Eds.). Theoretical models and processes of reading, 4th ed. (pp. 179-207). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.