Identity construction in elementary readers and writers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By examining the perspectives of students and others close to them, this study of 12 fifth graders from diverse backgrounds explores the role of literacy and curriculum in identity construction. Data collection included interviews with students, parents, the teacher, and peers; classroom observations; and analyses of student writing. Analyses of the data suggested that there was coherence of perspectives about six of the students while there was less agreement for six other students; perspective and context played more salient roles in some students' identity construction than in others. Second, literacy was a more important feature of some students' identities than others. For the avid and successful readers, literacy seemed to play a major role in how they viewed themselves. In contrast, reading and writing were not central for some students, generally the struggling, unsuccessful readers. Third, the literacy curriculum influenced students' identity construction, yet it did so in some unexpected ways. Students did not write the most revealing aspects of their identity in response to specific questions asked by the teacher, but found other avenues. Students evaluated their reading abilities and interests in terms of the school-wide, computerized program, but used more complex criteria for describing themselves as writers in the absence of a less-prescribed writing curriculum. Implications for practice include providing students with multiple opportunities to explore aspects of their identities, to legitimate their attempts to talk and write about issue of race and class in context, and to communicate frequently with parties close to the students. Other implications include reconceptualizing identity as a space where aspects of our private and public selves might blend or clash.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-151
Number of pages30
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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