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In the Pursuit of Justice

Students’ Rights to Read and Write in Elementary School

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Even from the earliest grades, children have the rights to read and write—not just in dominant American English, but also in their own languages and dialects.

Young children make meaning and make sense from the earliest years. They read facial expressions, engage in interactions, and read symbols across a variety of named languages. Historically narrow definitions of reading and writing, however, often prevent children of color and immigrants from having access to texts that reflect their diverse cultures and backgrounds. Classroom materials also often don't reflect the growing majority of multilingual children of color, compromising their right to access texts that reflect their cultural values, language practices, and historical legacies.

Promoting equitable, inclusive, and plural understandings of literacy, Mariana Souto-Manning and eight New York City public school teachers explore how elementary teachers can welcome into their classrooms the voices, values, language practices, stories, and experiences of their students who have been minoritized by dominant curricula, cultivating reading and writing experiences that showcase children's varied skills and rich practices.

Readers are invited to enter classrooms where teachers have engaged with the principles detailed in two NCTE position statements--NCTE Beliefs about the Students' Right to Write and The Students' Right to Read--in the pursuit of justice. Collectively, their experiences show that when teachers view the communities their students come from as assets to and in school, children not only thrive academically, but they also gain confidence in themselves as learners and develop a critical consciousness. Together, stepping into their power, they seek to right historical and contemporary wrongs as they commit to changing the world.

About Principles in Practice

Books in the Principles in Practice imprint offer teachers concrete illustrations of effective classroom practices based in NCTE research briefs and policy statements.

Each book discusses the research on a specific topic, links the research to an NCTE brief or policy statement, and then demonstrates how those principles come alive in practice: by showcasing actual classroom practices that demonstrate the policies in action; by talking about research in practical, teacher-friendly language; and by offering teachers possibilities for rethinking their own practices in light of the ideas presented in the books.

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