Critical Literacy

 

Strategizing to Support

21st Century Literacy

 

Critical Literacy

 

Preamble

If we examine the traditional definitions of reading, the inference of critical skills is there, but these skills are not stated explicitly.  There are generalized statements made that reading allows one to make connections and to make meaning of words.  However, if we accept the redefinition of literacy that is proposed in this learning object, we must embed the definition of critical literacy into our instructional repertoire.

 

For example, our provincial definition of literacy infers critical literacy skills, but, the term is not directly referenced in this definition:

 

Literacy involves a continuum of interrelated skills, practices and learnings that contribute to development of an individual’s ability to understand, communicate, and participate in a variety of roles ( i.e., parent, citizen, and worker) and settings, in the home, at work, in education, and in the community. 

 

These include:

 

Listening and speaking,

Reading and writing,

Observing, viewing and representing,

Numeracy,

Use of technology such as computers and calculators.

 

Literacy is essential to and can influence the ability to:

 

Think critically,

Make decisions,

Solve problems, and resolve conflicts.

 

The vast amount of information available today demands that we are critically literate.   

 

Critical Literacy Defined

One of the key elements of 21st century learning is critical literacy.  This literacy is embedded in the Thinking and Problem-solving Skills identified in the “Milestones for Improving Learning and Education (MILE) Guide for 21st Century Skills. (Retrieved March 10, 2005 from http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/guide/)

 

Download a printable version of the MILE Guide for 21st Century Skills here. (324K PDF)*

Download just the wide version of the MILE Guide Chart for 21st Century Skills
here. (135K PDF)*

 

These skills require critical Thinking and Systems Thinking. That is the exercise of sound reasoning in understanding and making complex choices and understands the interconnections among systems.  Problem identification, formulation and solution require the skill to frame, analyze, and solve problems.  Creativity and Intellectual curiosity are the final sub set of skills under this category. These skills require the developing, implementing, and communicating new ideas to others, staying open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives.

 

 

Lori Jamison on critical literacy - click play button above -

 

The following sites offer “practical classroom” suggestions for enhancing instruction in higher-order thinking skills and critical and creative thinking.

 

Critical Thinking Activities

This site provides an exhaustive list of suggestions for critical thinking activities to be used in K-12 classrooms.

http:// www.hbe.com.au.

 

The NCREL (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory) offers reference materials as well as practical suggestions for incorporating critical thinking skills into instructional practices.

http://www.ncrel.org/engauge/skills/skills.htm

 

Download an Adobe® Reader® (PDF) version of the enGauge® 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age

 

Download an Adobe® Reader® (PDF) version of the 8-page enGauge® 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age brochure.

 

In her research, Karen Tankersley expands on the findings of the National Reading Association (2000) research on strategies for literacy.  In her book, The Threads of Reading: Strategies for Literacy Development (2003) Tankersley includes higher-order thinking skills as a thread that needs to be woven into strategies for literacy development.  Her book provides many practical classroom strategies that can be used. Tankersley, K. (2003). The threads of reading: Strategies for literacy development. ASCD, VA. Her work can also be accessed at: http://threadsofreading.com.

 

Saskatchewan Context

The Common Essential Learnings (CELs) constitute a component of Saskatchewan’s Core Curriculum.  The CELs are currently undergoing renewal and it is interesting to note that the first Common Essential Learnings to be renewed are Personal and Social Development (PSD) and Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT).  For purposes of this Learning Object and in relation to the skills needed for 21st Century Literacy, the renewed Critical and Creative Thinking Skills will be addressed.

 

The continuum explores the notion that the critical thinker embraces communitarian notions. The idea of communitarianism was first described by Amitai Etzioni.  As you review the attributes assigned to the communitarian critical thinker, you will note the relationship to global awareness.

 

- CLICK HERE TO SEE THE CONTINUUM OF RENEWED CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS -

 

As an educator, why would I need to teach critical literacy?

 

INSERT GRAPH OF SASK STUDENTS RESULTS FROM SAIP IN WHICH THEY ARE CLEARLY BEHIND MANITOBA AND ALBERTA IN CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING SKILLS…WILL FORWARD THIS GRAPH

 

Critical Literacy as a Tool of Empowerment

“To be literate is not to be free, it is to be present and active in the struggle
  for reclaiming one’s voice, history, and future.”

(Friere and Macedo, 1987)

 

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, the term critical literacy was probably most strongly affiliated with the work of Paulo Friere and his colleagues. Freire outlined an orientation to education that began from the proposition that language and literacy, and control over how issues, problems and aspects of the world are “named”, are directly tied to issues of political power, and that reconstructed, literacy education could therefore be used as a force for political liberation and emancipation for disenfranchised social groups.

 

Friere and Macedo define literacy in a political sense. They iterate that literacy is best understood as a myriad of discursive forms and cultural competencies that construct and make available the various relations and experiences that exist between learners and the world. Friere and Macedo (1987, p. 25) best say this in the following quote:

 

“Reading the world always precedes reading the word, and reading the word implies continually reading the world…. [T]his movement from the word to the world is always present; even the spoken word flows from our reading of the world.  In a way, however, we can go further and say that reading the word is not preceded merely by reading the world, but by a certain form of writing it or rewriting it, that is, of transforming it by means of conscious, practical work.  For me, this dynamic movement is central to the literacy process.”

 

This is an important element for critical literacy on the Internet. Not only must students learn how to read the Internet but for a critical element they must also construct texts. Andersen (2000) discusses how users of the Internet construct their own text when surfing the web. Their journey is individualized as each student uses different sequences and duration. Opportunities also arise for discussion on the vocabulary of searching, surfing, evaluating sites, and processing retrieved information (Andersen, 2000; Jones, 1996, retrieved on March 20, 2005 from http://www.pwc.k12.nf.ca/internetliteracy/critical.html)

 

 

Activity

Below is a list of attributes of critical thinkers.  These attributes are taken from the research done for the renewal of the Creative and Critical Thinking Skills.  Cut and paste the attribute into the category you feel it best belongs.  After completing this activity, you can access the continuum that is used for the renewed Critical Thinking Skills.

 

Almost Always

Usually

Almost Never

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As educators, what are the attributes of critical literacy we need to address? 

 

From the review of the literature, we must address the following skills in order to achieve critical literacy:

 

a) Critical literacy according to Wendy Morgan (1996) attempts to develop three kinds of understanding:

 

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the way texts and their discourses work to represent reality and define what is necessary for us

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a sympathetic understanding of the people who are affected (shaped) by those discourses

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ways we can engage with those texts and their debates

 

b) The explicit instruction of critical thinking skills.

 

 

As educators, how do we do this?

 

We address critical literacy by helping students deconstruct the structures and features of texts.

 

We ask students to examine the following:

 

o       Textual purpose(s)
    What is this text about?  How do we know?
    Who would be most likely to read and/or view this text and why?
    Why are we reading and/or viewing this text?
    What does the composer of the text want us to know?

 

o       Textual structures and features
    What are the structures and features of the text?
    What sort of genre does the text belong to?
    What do the images suggest?
    What do the words suggest?
    What kind of language is used in the text?

 

o       Construction of characters
    How are children, teenagers or young adults constructed in this text?
    How are adults constructed in this text?
    Why has the composer of the text represented the characters in a particular way?

 

o       Gaps and silences
    Are there ‘gaps’ and ‘silences’ in the text?
    Who is missing from the text?
    What has been left out of the text?
    What questions about itself does the text not raise?

 

o       Power and interest
    In whose interest is the text?
    Who benefits from the text?
    Is the text fair?
    What knowledge does the reader/viewer need to bring to this text in order to understand it?
    Which positions, voices and interests are at play in the text?
    How is the reader or viewer positioned in relation to the composer of the text?
    How does the text depict age, gender and/or cultural groups?
    Whose views are excluded or privileged in the text?
    Who is allowed to speak?  Who is quoted?
    Why is the text written the way it is?

 

o       Whose view: whose reality?
    What view of the world is the text presenting?
    What kinds of social realities does the text portray?
    How does the text construct a version of reality?
    What is real in the text?
    How would the text be different if it were told in another time, place or culture?

 

o       Interrogating the composer
    What kind of person, and with what interests and values, composed the text?
    What view of the world and values does the composer of the text assume that the
    reader/viewer holds? How do we know?

 

o       Multiple meanings
    What different interpretations of the text are possible?
    How do contextual factors influence how the text is interpreted?
    How does the text mean?
    How else could the text have been written?
    How does the text rely on inter-textuality to create its meaning?

 

Visit this website for practical suggestions: http://www.education.tas.gov.au/english/critlit.htm

 

Critical Thinker Attributes

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possessing a full range of dialogue abilities & abilities to “think with” others

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valuing the development of strong communities and community based decision-making, problem-solving

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appreciating social and cultural diversity and developing intercultural understandings and abilities

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understanding and appreciating the natural environment as a part of one’s community

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acting upon an understanding of the implications of our social and biological interdependence

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valuing ideas of all persons involved in a issue/concern, believe that group will develop stronger understanding & better solutions than an individual

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questioning own role,  role of community, role of society in understanding or solving a problem

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working towards solutions that are environmentally-sound

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understanding importance of hope & vision

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having the courage to think for ones self and to stand up for the strongest idea or argument even when this is not the popular view

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 seeking to understand both short and long term consequences of decisions/actions

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possessing values, attitudes and dispositions related to fair-mindedness, respect, and concern for others, other life forms (e.g., fairness, justice, care, empathy)

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using the full range of critical & creative thinking abilities not only to meet own needs but also to find the fairest, most equitable solutions for all, and to conserve environments, support planetary health.

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being honest (including with self)

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ignoring self knowledge if it goes against one’s present desires, interests

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having “blind spots” in one’s self-understanding

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trying to deceive others about own motives in order to get what we  want

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using critical thinking abilities to manipulate others into believing or doing what  we  want them to believe or do

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 tendencies to be ego-centric, ethno-centric, &/or socio-centric

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having and using a range of critical and creative thinking abilities

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using one’s thinking abilities to achieve what is wanted for self (i.e., to serve our own interests)

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valuing and developing self-understanding 

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not being easily fooled or manipulated

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asking questions when uncertain

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taking the time to think things through

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seeking evidence or “proof”  

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recognizing complexity –understanding that not everything in life can be described in “black and white” terms & that there can be many approaches to the same problem but often not  one “best” solution

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 thinking contextually[1]    

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possessing & integrating creative thinking abilities as needed

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valuing knowledge and the use of reason (i.e., unbiased, logical, evidence-based thinking

bullet

having stronger critical thinking abilities in one/some subject area/s than others  

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seeking help/advice, other sources/resources in areas in which they do not have strong knowledge or abilities

 

 

The DRAFT continuum for Critical Thinkers December 2004.

FORMS OF CRITICAL THINKING - Dec. 2004.doc

 

 [1]See background document “Thinking contextually” for full description of skills/abilities involved.

 

 

Jane Thurgood-Sagal Executive Director on Curriculum and Instruction Saskatchewan Learning on developing critical thinking skills - click play button above -

 

Addressing Critical Thinking Skills: suggestions for reading instruction

 

These are the suggestions from Karen Tankersley's  book The Threads of Reading relative to  the importance of instructing higher order thinking skills in reading instruction.

 

Ø      Asking questions:

o       Insert Question+ Answer = Summary

o       Pair and Share:       Students are grouped in pairs. After reading an assigned text, students share questions and ideas from the text with their partners.  Then they discuss these ideas in detail, They decide upon the key idea and present that idea to the entire class.

 

o       Interview Questions:  Students create five questions that they might ask the main character of the story. These questions are then given to another student to answer from the main character’s point of view.

 

o       Setting:  Have students compare where they live to the setting of the story.  How would a particular story change if it were set in their environment? How would the story’s details need to be changed to accommodate the change in setting?  Have students rewrite the story using the new setting.

 

 

Why is it important to explicitly instruct critical thinking skills? 

 

bullet

If we want to achieve the CELs and create communitarian thinkers, we need to instruct our students in critical thinking skills. 

 

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The communitarian perspective requires us to look beyond our self-contained world and reach out for global understanding. 

 

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Therefore, there is a strong link to global literacy.  If we follow the progression of critical thinking, the next step is global literacy.

 

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As critical thinkers then, we do have an obligation to support development of literacy on a global level. 

 

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It is our attempt to ensure that all people have a voice.

 

Another consideration when addressing critical literacy:

 

Assisting students with determining the reliability of internet resources:

 

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Always check with your school division: there is usually a policy that addresses research skills required of students and that includes Internet site evaluation guides.

 

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Make use of varied and creative critical evaluation skills: work to develop simple procedures/guidelines that can be used at home, at work and in the classroom to help students, parents and teachers best evaluate validity and reliability of Internet sources and resources.

 

Understanding URLs

 

What is a URL?

When you want to find a book in the library, you use a set of letters and numbers called a call number to locate it on the shelves.  When you want to find a page or site on the World Wide Web, you also need a special code.  This code or address is called a URL or Uniform Resource Locator. The URL can provide important clues to the source of the web page.

 

Parts of a URL

A URL begins with a prefix which shows the type of file being examined.  All World Wide Web URLs begin with http://-- for example:

 

bullet

http://www.imdb.com

bullet

Other kinds of files include gopher (gopher://) and newsgroups (news://).

 

The Server (Where the Web page is stored)

Sections of the URL are separated by slashes.  The first section of the URL after the prefix is the name of the server, the computer where the web page information is stored.  The server can be anywhere in the world, and you can often tell where it is by looking at the URL.

 

A Sample URL

 

bullet

http://www.indiana.edu/~slizzard/courses/visual.html

 

The part of the URL in bold print gives us a www prefix, a name for the server (Indiana), and a domain which is edu.

 

The Domain

The domain for the web page tells us what kind of organization owns the server computer. edu stands for “educational institution” (usually a school).  In the sample URL above, since Indiana is the name of the server computer, we can guess that the school is probably in the state of Indiana.

 

Types of Domains

Ø      edu – educational institution (usually a school)

Ø      org – non-profit organization

Ø      com – commercial organization (may be a commercial online service, such as AOL)

Ø      net – Internet Service Provider

Ø      gov – government

Ø      mil – military

 

You can always find the domain at the end of the first section of the URL.

Here are some examples:

 

http://www.efn.org/~mjackson/homepage.html

bullet

In this case, the domain org shows us the page is sponsored by a non-profit organization.

 

http://memory.loc.gov

bullet

This URL is for a government-sponsored page.

 

http://www.netizen.com/hf

bullet

Here is a commercially sponsored web page.

bullet

These rules apply only to web pages originating from the United States.  Other countries have their own domains.

 

Non-American Domains

Ø      jp indicates a Japanese Web page

Ø      uk is the United Kingdom

Ø      au is Australia

 

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In the United Kingdom, ac stands for “academic” (school) and co stands for commercial.

 

A school in England, for example, might have the following URL:

bullet

http://www.tardis.ed.ac.uk/

 

Clues to an Individual’s Personal Web Page

One other clue to the source of the Web page may be found in the URL: the tilde, which looks like this ~ This symbol is usually used before a person’s name, and indicates that the page is a home page belonging to that person. Words such as users, people, or members may also indicate a personal home page.

 

Examples are:

Ø      http://ulibnet.mtsu.edu/~msimms

Ø      http://www.du.edu/~gkaufman/anime

Ø      http://www.neighborhood.net/users/eyamamoto/UHL.html

 

Personal pages may or may not be good sources of information; a home page may belong to any person. It is important to keep this in mind when evaluating web pages as information sources.

 

(Retrieved and/or adapted March 27, 2005 from Evaluating web resources workshop materials and personal communications with Mr. Robertson)

 

Reading and Hyperlinking

 

Hyperreading is particularly visual in nature. It also draws on a different set of distinctive features, again related and similar to those for printed text, but moving beyond them.

Hyperreading, according to Burbules (1998) entails a different kind of relationship to text, a different kind of reading. He suggests that there may be, or already are, some new orientations to reading. One example he cites is the practice of surfing, applicable not only to the Internet, but also to TV channels via remote control, radio stations via push-button tuning, and CD sampling. This behavior has both positive and negative consequences:

 

With a surfeit of stimuli competing for people's attention, they are, on the one hand, becoming more adept at screening information very quickly, making rapid judgments about whether it is desirable, and 'parallel processing' different materials simultaneously. On the other hand, their capacities for sustained attention to any single textual source are affected as a consequence. (Burbules, 1998, p. 108)

 

In contrast to print reading, where the text is supposed to be transparent so readers look directly at meaning, hypertext expects readers to attend to its form: "In following hypertextual links, the reader becomes conscious of the form or medium itself and of her interaction with it" (Bolter, 2001, p. 43). The ability to hyperread relies on those fundamental processing abilities because it relies on print reading ability. As Bolter says:

 

Instead, the World Wide Web offers us the experience of moving through a visual and conceptual space different from the space of the book, although this experience still depends on our intuitive understanding of that earlier writing space. Indeed, we depend in a variety of ways on our knowledge of print in order to read and write hypertexts. (Bolter, 2001, p. 45)

 

(Retrieved March 20, 2005 from http://www.readingmatrix.com/articles/horning/)

 

 

As educators, how do we assist our students with this literacy skill?

 

Skimming (the ability to read swiftly and lightly) is necessary when trying to locate information. Scanning (the ability to read more closely for specific detail) helps students understand main ideas. Studying is also a specific reading skill that requires students to read closely and then reread.  (Saskatchewan Learning, English Language Arts Curriculum Guide Grade Ten 1997).

 

Name:

Date:

Selection:

Before I read this selection, I:

Yes

No

 

____

____

thought about the title and what it suggested the selection was about.

____

____

previewed the whole selection or parts of it.

____

____

thought about the subject or situation suggested by my preview.

____

____

set a purpose for my reading.

____

____

used other strategies including: (List any other strategies used before reading the selection.)

While I read this selection, I:

Yes

No

 

____

____

created a dialogue with the writer (e.g., What is the writer saying? What is the main idea? How is it supported? What is the writer’s viewpoint? What do I already know about this? What am I learning about this?).

____

____

paraphrased or retold to myself what I was reading.

____

____

imagined what places, people, events might look like, or imagined whatever the writer was explaining.

____

____

connected my personal experience to what I was reading.

____

____

made inferences from textual clues given by the writer.

____

____

distinguished fact from opinion.

____

____

predicted and then confirmed what the writer might say next.

____

____

went back and reread confusing parts.

____

____

checked words that I did not know the meaning of from context.

____

____

used other strategies including: (List any other strategies used while reading the selection.)

After I read this selection, I:

Yes

No

 

____

____

determined my initial impression of what I had read.

____

____

discussed what I had read and my impressions with someone.

____

____

reflected on what I had read.

____

____

reviewed and summarized what I had read and learned.

____

____

made notes in my journal, notebook, or in my head.

____

____

reread and developed a more thoughtful interpretation of what I had read (e.g., considered why the writer wrote the text, what was being presented, and how it was constructed).

____

____

evaluated what I had read and supported my judgements with references to the text.

____

____

used other strategies including: (List any other strategies used after reading the selection.)

 

Click the links to the various Instructional Strategies/Categories below to see some examples of how we can better understand each strategy in relation to 21st century literacy and to unleash the desire to become "learning literate"  through the various instructional strategies and their complimentary  technologies.

 

Critical Literacy

 

Differentiation

 

Information Literacy

 

Visual Literacy

 

Socio-Communicative Etiquette

 

Bibliography

  

Andersen, 2000; Jones, (1996)., Developing critical literacy skills for the internet:

     Critical literacy retrieved on March 20, 2005 from

     http://www.pwc.k12.nf.ca/internetliteracy/critical.html)

 

Department of Education, Tasmania, School Education Division. English learning

     area: Critical literacy. (2004) Retrieved March 10, 2005 from

     http://www.education.tas.gov.au/english/critlit.htm (Modified: 05/10/2004)

 

enGauge® 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age (2003). Retrieved March

     10, 2005, from http://www.ncrel.org/engauge/skills/skills.htm

  

Horning, Alice S. ., The Reading Matrix Vol. 2, No. 2, June 2002 Reading the World

     Wide Web: Critical Literacy for the New Century. Retrieved March 20, 2005 from

     http://www.readingmatrix.com/articles/horning/

 

Mile Guide for 21st Century Skills: Milestones for improving learning and education.

     (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2005, from http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/guide/

 

Robertson, R. (2004). Evaluating web resources workshop. Retrieved and/or

     adapted by Bashutski, C., March 27, 2005 from workshop materials and in

     personal communication with Mr. Robertson.

 

Saskatchewan Education. (1997). A Curriculum Guide for the Middle

     Level.Regina, SK: Author
 

Tankersley, K. (2003)., The threads of reading: Strategies for literacy development.

     ASCD, VA. Her work can also be accessed at: http://threadsofreading.com.

 

 

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