A study of the literacy practices of rural farm male adolescents

  • Author / Creator
    Kelly, Brenda
  • Concerns have been expressed about assessment results that report girls outscoring boys on standardized achievement testing in reading and writing and boys outscoring girls in mathematics and science. This study explored how Western Canadian rural farm boys understand and practice multiple literacies in their everyday lives and what it means for them to be ‘literate’ in today’s world. The research was a qualitative ethnographic study of the culture of six rural farm boys. Thick description was used to explain the event and the context of the event. The fieldwork involved collecting print and digital artifacts that depicted the boys’ literacy practices and conducting interviews and conversations. The boys lead very literate lives. However, their notions of what literacy is are rooted in the ideas of literacy as a technical skill and literacy as school knowledge. The boys, who did not see themselves as readers, engaged in transactional reading and writing outside of school, motivated by personal and group interests and by a curiosity to learn knowledge about the world in which they live, a need to be with their peers, and a desire to build social capital in their settings. The boys used literacy to do the social work of gender, of defining themselves, and of placing themselves in their families and peer groups and among their schoolmates with a gendered identity. A gender-based disconnect in reading and writing activities has emerged from our schools. If we want students to embrace school-based print literacy and to make it part of their lives, then competence is simply not enough. Educators must find ways to help students discover pleasure in reading and writing well by offering them assignments and opportunities to recognize that what brings them pleasure is connected to experience, competence, and challenge. The chasm between school literacy and literacy for personal purposes demonstrates the need for curriculum designers to find ways to utilize the digital mode of communication. Curriculum writers must begin to view at literacy as a social practice rather than as a set of technical skills for these rural male adolescents to see themselves as literate people.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2010
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Cherland, Meredith (University of Regina)
    • Kirova, Anna (Department of Elementary Education)
    • McClay, Jill (Department of Elementary Education)
    • Leroy, Carol (Department of Elementary Education)
    • Wiltse, Lynne (Department of Elementary Education)
    • Wallace, Janice (Department of Educational Policy Studies)