Connecting, resisting, and searching for safer places: Students respond to Mildred Taylor's The Friendship

Karla J. Möller, Jo Beth Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We analyze the discussion that developed when four fifth-grade girls, three African American and one Hispanic, and Karla Möller, a European American, transacted with Mildred Taylor's The Friendship (1987). Framing our analysis within the intersection of reader-response theory and sociocultural and critical theories of literacy learning, we show how participants' responses to Taylor's text and adult and peer guidance helped to create a response development zone that allowed for a dialectic of connecting with and resisting the evocation. The girls, all struggling readers, used reading, writing, and discussion to address comprehension difficulties and construct multiple levels of meaning. They became increasingly aware of historical racism and connected that knowledge to events from their own experience, including encounters with the Klan and memories of a relative's murder. We present the group's discussion as a metaphorical play and the girls as spectators who become actors as they engaged in this "theater of discourse" (Boal, 1985).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-186
Number of pages42
JournalJournal of Literacy Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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