Reading our richly diverse world: Conceptualizing a response development zone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


As a European American literacy educator and children's literature researcher interested in equity and diversity, I have focused for some time on the complexities of response to literature in our richly diverse world. Committed to the continuing struggle for justice in literacy education, I am guided by Edelsky's (1994) call for ‘literacy for democracy’ (p. 254) for all students. One part of this journey for me has been to articulate the connections between my research and teaching in children's response to literature and my personal grounding in an emancipatory multicultural approach to teaching and learning—and to demonstrate these under standings in my practice through my advocacy for incorporating issue rich, culturally diverse, socially conscious literature in public school elementary classrooms. Over the past decade of my work with schools, my focus on diversity and dialogue in teaching with literature has led to a range of challenging questions—some internal and some posed by others: Is it realistic to believe that teachers and students can engage in group discussions of literature, especially works of multicultural literature containing social justice themes, in ways that help participants examine and expand on their responses without devaluing participants' initial reactions? Can educators help to create spaces in which they and their students feel safe addressing injustices and fears in productive and healing ways while also maintaining a focus on the literature and on content comprehension? Can participants in literature discussions support each other's learning about self and the world, prompting each other to expand on initial responses, to look at other avenues of response, to connect aspects of their lives to books and group dialogue, and to engage in critical reflection of social issues? My experience tells me yes— but how does this happen and what does it look like? What I propose in this chapter is a theoretical construct applicable to reading and responding to multicultural books. This construct—a response development zone (RDZ)—encompasses the potential each reader has for creating and extending responses to literature within sociopolitical and historical as well as local contexts. Together, groups of readers create collective RDZs that offer expanded opportunities to develop multilayered under standings in response to literature.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEmbracing, Evaluating, and Examining African American Children's and Young Adult Literature
EditorsWanda M Brooks, Jonda C McNair
PublisherScarecrow Press
ISBN (Print)9780810860278
StatePublished - 2008


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