"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Reading is power.

Reading is power.  Power because of the knowledge it can bring. The doors it can open and a
sense of self and identity it can help to shape or solidify for the reader.

In adult education – literacy – the ability to read and read well also brings freedom.  Freedom to do – to try – to reach for something more; whether you are in ESL, ABE, GED, K-12, or Higher Education.

For those that want to be seen for who they are (on their own terms) and not labeled by their education or lack thereof; the ability to manipulate those letters into sounds that form words, enable language, and with that language the user has a voice. In the world of education, having a voice is what gives you an arena or platform to be seen.

In chapter one of Janks, Literacy and Power, (p.11) English is defined as the “global language” in South Africa. In a country where there are many tribal dialects and languages, representative of the people that comprise its country and culture; the “linguistic diversity” of the country is categorized by level of importance.

Janks argued that by teaching children in only two languages - Afrikaans and English - children’s cultural identities were not being acknowledged and were therefore, “compromised”. Those two languages were seen as the key to learning, the key to power, and the key to freedom:
                “I could not but be aware that language is fundamentally tied to questions of power.”
                “…the fundamental connections between language and learning were clear.”
Clearly identity is tied to language and culture for all of us.  When your native language is not represented and acknowledge as important in your own country, what message does that send to us about our importance?  What does that do to you when you become an adult?  Where is your sense of self? What is your sense of self? Where is your power?

These past week’s readings for TEDU 681 were diverse in their subject matter and focus, to say the least. Yet, I found that there was a universal thread that connected them all. Each assigned reading (Strucker, Alamprese, Janks, and Reder) examined the many different facets that make up or fall under the Adult literacy umbrella. I became more knowledgeable about the lack of funding made available for more research studies, theoretical discourse, critical theory, what comprises reading component assessment in a constructive and beneficial way for the learner; along with literacy practices by learners and their place in formal assessment of literacy skills in and outside of the classroom.  All of this had me thinking about my own reading abilities, and how I learned as a child through to my current status as “Adult learner” in Grad school. My fundamental identity of who I am is comprised of many things.  But my ability to read and practice various literacy skill-sets, at this point in my life, has empowered me beyond what I could have possibly imagined for myself in this dual role I now inhabit as an educator and learner.

As a reader of this week’s assigned material, there were times when I felt overwhelmed by the language and uncertain that I understood or could connect with the material. Yet, I didn't give up. I took my time (as much was possible and still meet the deadlines imposed) and found myself going

“back to the basics” of how I was taught by various teachers in my past.  I went back to learned skills of breaking apart the reading material and allowing myself time to absorb what I was reading so that I could better understand the material.  I didn't lose my dignity or sense of self in the process and nor should any adult learner.  In the world of Adult literacy, educators assist adult learners find their power.


  1. Hi JG - you had me at "My fundamental identity of who I am is comprised of many things. But my ability to read and practice various literacy skill-sets, at this point in my life, has empowered me beyond what I could have possibly imagined for myself in this dual role I now inhabit as an educator and learner." Your post is helping me understand how to connect identity and literacy. I especially like the way said 'imagined for myself.' As I struggle to find the words to describe the aspect of identity I plan to study, I find myself using the word imagined, as in 'an imagined way of being." You also talk about your dual role that evolved over time. Your post has been like an 'identity studies buffet' for me. Thanks 'cause I'm hungry! :-)

  2. If nothing else, Lisa, your post proves you are a good sport. Looking back on these reading assignments seems like cruel and unusual punishment. Well, they don't call it intensive term for nuttin!! You did a great job attempting a synthesis across the episteme studies and Janks' phronesis-based argument. Your careful readings shine through; thank you for that. And thank you also for being positive and open to all the complex and fascinating ways we have to conceptualize and advocate for the field. At your closing, referring to the challenging texts, you stated, "I didn't lose my dignity or sense of self in the process and nor should any adult learner." I wonder what allows one person to experience dense texts as a reading challenge, and another as a rejection and defeat? Is it innate character alone, or are larger social forces at play? :)Bill

  3. I enjoyed your blog entry - the idea of our dual role as educators and learners is a very pointed description, so true! I also thought about how I learned to read as I struggled with some of this week's readings - but then we have an educator to show us our power when we fumble. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be born into a literacy rich environment, so I credit my parents with granting me this power. This made a big part of my identity I know. I also recognize how many students don't have this good fortune and the power we have to give. Thanks for a good read.

  4. Hi All:
    Susan, thank you for your positive energy! I am glad that my post sparked something in you that and resonated with your project and where you want to take it. What a great forum for us to each take something away from each other’s insight or view while we share this community of learning together. That connectedness is one of the best aspects of education and learning from all things that I love most!

    Bill, I hope you mean me, "JG", in your reply and not "Lisa"? ;-). My post are self-reflective and not digs or criticisms towards my courses or workload. I am retelling my weekly story through each experience that I go through while I move through this program. Hopefully years from now (if this platform is still around), I’ll be able to look back on my learning journey and still have a tactile connection to it. I think my determination to “not give up” is a character trait; blessing or a curse is in the eye of the beholder. :-)

    Lisa, Thanks so much for enjoying this week's ride with me! I love that you share the same view about the duality of our roles as educators and learners. I too was nurtured in a “literacy rich environment”. :-) I can’t decide now if I love the smell of books more than leather. ;-). I grew up surrounded by books and weekly, daily trips to the library and bookstores growing up. In our house, we were surrounded by books of all shapes and sizes and diverse subjects. I think I was the richest kid in the world for having such a lovely connection to reading and learning from childhood to my current place in life. I agree with you, having this “power to give” the same back to learners does make me feel very fortunate as well.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.