Adolescent Literacy: Looking Back and Moving Forward in the Global Flow


  • Thomas Bean,

  • Judith Dunkerly


Awaiting abstract


When the first issue of our editorship began in September 2008, our opening editorial (Bean & Harper, 2008) harked back to Allan Luke and John Elkins's (1998) editorial, titled “Reinventing Literacy in New Times.” Luke and Elkins posed the question, “What will it mean to be a reader and writer in the 21st Century?” (Luke & Elkins, 1998, p. 4). In our 2008 editorial, Helen Harper and I (first author) forecasted an increasing need to attend to the intellectual demands of global, cosmopolitan citizenship in what is now clearly an interconnected world (Harper, Bean, & Dunkerly, 2010).

Briefly defined, cosmopolitanism refers to the proliferation of multiple cultures, transnational forms of life embracing local and global flows, and the shift from an emphasis on the nation state to the emergence of global multinational states (Beck & Sznaider, 2010). In particular, this philosophical turn regards social differences and cultural and linguistic diversity as rich human resources to be valued in our classrooms.

In an effort to keep Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literature (JAAL) readers abreast of these fast-moving changes in adolescent literacy, we invited commentaries from major scholars in the U.S. and beyond to discuss issues. These pivotal articles, starting with Donna Alvermann's (2008) commentary, “Why Bother Theorizing Adolescents’ Online Literacies for Classroom Practice and Research,” helped define our editorship.

If we are to be true to the fast-moving global flows existing at the confluence of the local and global in cosmopolitan times, adolescent literacy and education needs to offer teachers research and ideas that address the transcultural, transnational context and conditions of their students.

A few articles in JAAL during our editorship traced this cosmopolitan turn in what it means to be literate in the 21st century. For example, Damico (2011), Hull and Stornaiulo (2010), Jiménez, Smith, and Teague (2009), and McLean (2010) all consider the transnational flows that influence adolescents’ lives as they simultaneously locate themselves in a physical neighborhood in one country while remaining in the social media communication flow with families and friends in their home countries throughout the globe.

Some of the other trends we noted during our editorship include increased attention to digital and media literacies, content area literacy, and the role of the arts in advancing adolescent literacy practices, teacher professional development, and writing. Articles typically include a wealth of websites and links to lesson examples through, making JAAL consistent with the theory-to-practice vision of our editorial predecessor, Todd Goodson (Goodson, 2002).

We also sought to help readers stay abreast of this fast-moving field by including departments that addressed “Digital Literacies” (David O'Brien & Cassandra Scharber), “Research Trends” (David Moore), “Professional Resources” (Roni Jo Draper), “Classroom Materials” (Carol Hryniuk-Adamov), “Policy Issues” (Lisa Patel Stevens), “Real-Time Teaching” (Doug Fisher & Diane Lapp), and “Books for Adolescents” (James Blasingame).

With Helen's untimely passing and Dr. Judith Dunkerly (Helen's doctoral student in literacy), taking on editorial tasks, we continue to be humbled and awed by the high degree of dedication to the field displayed by new authors, established scholars, and our department editors, and the powerful ideas of the many educators they involved in their columns.

The behind-the-scenes and incredibly hard-working staff at the International Reading Association help to make JAAL intellectually respectful about the many creative teachers who inspire students in exciting and diverse classrooms. Many thanks also to Dr. Jennifer Wimmer (now an assistant professor at Brigham Young University) for her dedication to JAAL as editorial assistant from 2008 to 2010.

We are very thrilled about the new team of editors, and we believe that Drs. Margaret Hagood and Emily Skinner are ideally positioned to move JAAL forward in the global flow with increased attention to elements of new literacies that will appeal to current and incoming teachers.

As we move forward in these times, we want to be mindful of Allan Luke's (2004) vision for teaching “as cosmopolitan work and (as a) profession in critical and contingent relation to the flows, context, and consequences of cultural and economic globalization” (p. 1429). Most important, Luke raises the question, “What if we envisioned as part of our rethinking of democratic education a reconstruction of teachers and students as world citizens, thinkers, intellectuals, and critics and within this context as national and community-based subjects?” (p. 1429).

Let the journey begin…


  • Bean is a professor of Reading/Literacy and Doctoral Coordinator at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA; e-mail

  • Dunkerly is a visiting faculty in Literacy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA; e-mail