A sense of belonging: Writing (righting) inclusion and equity in a child's transition to school

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Literacy studies with a sociocultural and participatory view of learning must confront the issue of institutional belonging. Without a sense of inclusion, there are no relationships within which literacy learning can unfold. In this article, I probe this sense from the vantage point of a small Black child as he transitions from a preschool program serving primarily low-income children of color to a kindergarten in a predominantly White, middle-class area. This ethnographic case study is based on four months of observation in the last half of the preschool year (focused on the child's participation in classroom composing practices) and five months of observation in the beginning of kindergarten (with similar focus). The analysis centered, first, on the child's situated encounters with other children that could mark him as out of place. The child faced varied kinds of challenges linked to intersecting societal forces, including race, class, gender, and notions of writing competence itself. Second, the analysis considered the contradictory roles of written language in the negotiation of inclusion. Literacy test results situated him outside the classroom "norm"; literacy as a symbolic and communicative tool situated him as an active social negotiator. The case reveals the flimsiness of the ladder of literacy skills as a way of understanding a child's school experiences and the importance of critically aware teachers who help children construct common ground upon which they all belong as learners, players, and peers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-261
Number of pages26
JournalResearch in the Teaching of English
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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