Upper elementary grade children respond to culturally relevant historical fiction in a community-based literary club

Susan Browne, University of Pennsylvania


African American students in urban environments need the support of family, school and community to become more engaged and successful in school. This triangulation can ensure that the lenses with which students read the word and the world are recognized and valued. Autochthonous knowledge, those emic ways of knowing, cannot be separated from the ways students read. Reading and responding to literature that culturally connects to the lives of young readers provided a context to study this notion. This research examined the ways upper elementary grade children responded to culturally relevant historical fiction in a community-based literary club. Traditional research paradigms and conceptual frameworks tend to use culture in ways that superficially influence curriculum. Limited numbers of African American students achieve academic success with instructional models that do not sufficiently acknowledge who they are and the realities of their lives. As I worked to support reading, writing and literacy in relationship to the urban student, the notion of cultural relevance shaped my research as I looked at reader response in literature discussion groups. Realizing that literacy is not bound by the walls of the classroom, the community-based literary club offered a space to acknowledge cultural background, modes of communication and community socialization processes in ways that remain unfamiliar to many classrooms. Just as the type of talk in the classroom literature discussion changes based on instructional context, differences emerged in the social context of the non-school literature discussion group. These discussions offered possibilities for the voices of African American children to emerge in new ways which can inform our understandings of their vision of self, culture, community and the world. Research relevant to this study focused on culturally relevant literature, reader response theory, literature discussion groups, critical literacy, Postmodern perspectives, research on literacy development in non school sites and research on theatre as a context for literacy development.

Subject Area

Language arts|Literacy|Reading instruction|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Browne, Susan, "Upper elementary grade children respond to culturally relevant historical fiction in a community-based literary club" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3092043.