"Welcome to the Jam": Popular Culture, School Literacy, and the Making of Childhoods

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In this ethnographic study of a group of African American first graders, Anne Haas Dyson illustrates the textual processes - the deliberate manipulation of popular cultural material - involved in the children's shared practices as playful children and good friends. These same processes shaped the ways the children made sense of and began to participate in school literacy. The observed children did not approach official literacy activities in their classroom as though they had nothing to do with their own childhoods. They made use of familiar media-influenced practices and symbolic material to take intellectual and social action in the official school world. Dyson offers a fresh perspective on children's experiences with popular media, emphasizing that they are an integral aspect of contemporary childhoods, not an external threat. Moreover, she presents an alternative view of the pathways and mechanisms through which children enter into school literacy practices, one that illuminates how children build from the very social and symbolic stuff of their own childhoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-361
Number of pages34
JournalHarvard Educational Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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