Critical Literacy Across the Curriculum: Learning to Read, Question, and Rewrite Designs
Early versions of critical literacy in elementary classrooms emphasized the deconstruction of texts in order to interrogate specific representations of groups of people, ideologies, and power relations. In other words, teachers encouraged children to question the versions of reality about women and men, about young and old, about people of different ethnicity and class that were presented to them in texts (e.g., O’Brien, 2001). Informed by both feminist poststructuralist theory (Mellor, Patterson, & O’Neill, 1987; Gilbert, 1989) and critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1995), this work problematized the status quo as it was portrayed in the media and everyday texts (Janks, 1993) and books for children (Baker & Freebody, 1989; Luke, 1991). More recently, attention has been paid to the importance of children’s agency through text production and related social action (Janks, 2010; Janks & Vasquez, 2011). Since the publication of the New London Group’s (1996) seminal paper on multiliteracies and the work of Kress and colleagues (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Mavers, 2011; Bezemer, Diamantopoulou, Jewitt, Kress, & Mavers, 2012), the idea of design as a key element of print and multimodal text production has circulated more widely in literacy studies. Recognizing that digital literacies allow young people to produce a range of multimedia texts, including visual designs, researchers from the New Literacy Studies have written about the affordances of multimodality for developing students’ literacy repertoires (Rowsell & Pahl, 2007; Street, Pahl, & Rowsell, 2011). In this body of work “literacy” is understood not as a one-dimensional skill, but as repertoires of practices that change according to the demands of different sociocultural contexts and the affordances of different modes and media (Luke & Freebody, 1997; Gutierrez & Rogoff, 2003).