Occasional Paper Series 29

© Estate of André Kertész / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery"New York City, April 23, 1969." © Estate of André Kertész / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery

Toward a More Loving Framework for Literacy Education

We all want children to become engaged and enthusiastic readers. Yet as teachers we are often challenged by students who, because of histories with a standardized and irrelevant curriculum, poor pedagogy, or unique learning styles, have become alienated from the written word. Impatient with our ignorance and desiring to be liberated from our well meaning interventions, these so called “struggling” readers often make short shrift of our best efforts.

In this provocative and moving essay, Clio Stearns, a Bank Street educated teacher, toggles back and forth between moments with her young daughter who daily grows more attached to books and moments with her fifth grade students who remain disconnected from her carefully chosen texts. Refracted through a psychoanalytic lens and a deeply caring heart, Stearns’ description of her classroom practices offers a canny account of all that she must give up in order to see through and past her students’ resistance. In a surprising turn of events she learns to join with her students as they become curious readers of the world that really matters to them.

Three senior scholars—Madeleine Grumet, Timothy Lensmire, and Alice Pitt—respond to Stearns’ essay by reflecting on their lives as curriculum theorists in order to highlight the fundamental dynamics of teaching and learning with other people’s children. Together with Stearns they remind us about what the purveyors of tests and measures would have us forget: reading and writing are profoundly human activities requiring mindful attunement to the interpersonal relationships through which they are achieved.