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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. READING IN A NEW AND EVER-CHANGING INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT
  5. CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF GENDERED LITERACY
  6. INTEGRATED MODEL FOR GENDERED LITERACY IN WESTERN CULTURES
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

The term “gendered literacy” is appearing with increasing frequency in both the education and library and information science literatures but has not yet been fully defined. This poster treats the concept of gendered literacy within Western cultures and discusses the importance of children's literacy in a rapidly changing reading and information environment, especially in light of the apparent gender gap in reading favoring girls. The poster also presents a cohesive literature-based model for gendered literacy. Although previous research has addressed gendered literacy from a variety of perspectives, it has not yet provided an integrated conceptual model.


INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. READING IN A NEW AND EVER-CHANGING INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT
  5. CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF GENDERED LITERACY
  6. INTEGRATED MODEL FOR GENDERED LITERACY IN WESTERN CULTURES
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

President of the Center on Education Policy Jack Jennings calls the gender gap in reading in the U.S. “an education crisis that is not receiving nearly the attention it ought to” (Jennings, 2011, para. 1). The crisis to which Jennings refers is located within a particular framework – literacy as gendered – often discussed from a variety of different perspectives in both the popular and scholarly literature. According to Nichols (2002), “girls and boys enter into formal literacy already having been constituted as particular kinds of gendered literate subjects” (p. 124). Nichols stresses the connection in the U.S. and among other Western cultures between children's acquisition of gender roles and their literacy learning. Similarly, Millard (1994) states that “in Western societies, reading is presented largely as a girl-preferred activity” (p. 96). This is a modern understanding of literacy, and represents a major shift in how literacy was previously gendered in Western culture.

The contention is that children of Western cultures come of age learning that reading is a primarily feminine activity more appropriate for girls than for boys, maintain these perspectives into adulthood and teach or otherwise transfer these views to others. Moreover, literacy as gendered, particularly in terms of the gender gap in reading, is an issue of major concern for educators, public and school librarians, parents, children themselves, and others responsible for children's formation as “gendered literate subjects” (Nichols, 2002, p. 124).

READING IN A NEW AND EVER-CHANGING INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. READING IN A NEW AND EVER-CHANGING INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT
  5. CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF GENDERED LITERACY
  6. INTEGRATED MODEL FOR GENDERED LITERACY IN WESTERN CULTURES
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

For children to learn to read and write well, they must read extensively. As literacy scholar Stephen Krashen (2004) concludes, based on a lifetime of research: “Reading is the only way, the only way we become good readers, develop a good writing style, an adequate vocabulary, advanced grammatical competence, and the only way we become good spellers” (p. 37). Moreover, Krashen (2004) claims that what he calls “free voluntary reading” (p. 1) is better for helping children develop literacy skills than reading instruction, making the issue of children's recreational reading all that more pressing (p. 37). Indeed, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development's (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), “reading for enjoyment is associated with reading proficiency…. On average, students who read daily for enjoyment score the equivalent of one-and-a-half years of schooling better than those who do not” (OECD, 2011, p. 2). Children's reading preferences and practices, therefore, warrant scrutiny.

The anxiety surrounding children's literacy has taken a number of forms, including the “boy problem” along with ongoing discussions over testing and preparation for later education. The onset of the information age and the decline of manufacturing jobs have increased popular perceptions about the needs for formal literacy as well as a capacity to use information technology and the development of new types of knowledge. In the field of library and information science, changes in media and information technology have meant a retooling of what literacy means, concomitant with major changes in librarian preparation. For example, Lamb and Johnson (2010) encourage school librarians “to design learning environments that address the needs of 21st century learners” (p. 64). Library and information science scholars and librarians alike are exploring what this means for the profession as literacy learners include students who are increasingly comfortable with “fluid environments and transmedia worlds” (Lamb & Johnson, 2010, p. 64).

For children, learning occurs in a context in which the nature of reading is continually changing. This evolving complex social backdrop includes everything from new types of literature, a newfound public interest in young adult literature, to the growth of online book sellers, electronic books, and online reading. Increasingly, children must be transliterate, that is, able “to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” (Thomas, Joseph, Laccetti, Mason, Mills, Perril, & Pullinger, 2007). In this information landscape, reading fluency is foundational to children's successful interactions with information and their ability to handle complex information tasks.

CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF GENDERED LITERACY

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. READING IN A NEW AND EVER-CHANGING INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT
  5. CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF GENDERED LITERACY
  6. INTEGRATED MODEL FOR GENDERED LITERACY IN WESTERN CULTURES
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

In reviewing the literature, it is clear that although researchers have begun to use the term “gendered literacy” (i.e. Almjeld, 2008; Barrs, 2000; Orellana, 1995; Sanford, 2005/2006), they have defined it in many different ways, no one having yet aggregated these various definitions to arrive at a complete theoretical model of the phenomenon. In this sense, the study fills a gap in the literature by bringing together these conceptions to arrive at an integrated, multi-faceted view of gendered literacy. The poster presents a unified conceptual model of gendered literacy – a model developed following years of review of documents retrieved from databases specific to the fields of education and library and information science as well as more generalized databases, library catalogs, and the Internet. The research also incorporates documents traced from footnotes throughout the research process. Gendered literacy has been portrayed in the research literature in the following ways:

  • Gendered literacy as enacted, or performed, by multiple actors:

    • Children/young adults:

      • a)
        through boys' resistance to formal, school-based literacy in comparison to girls' more enthusiastic adoption of formal literacy practice in terms of reading, writing, and classroom comportment (i.e. DiPrete & Jennings, 2012; Millard, 1997; Moss, 2007; Smith, Smith, Gilmore, & Jameson, 2012) and,
      • b)
        through girls' and boys' displaying differing literacy interests in terms of reading and writing (i.e. Dutro, 2003; McKechnie, 2006; Millard & Marsh, 2001; Smith & Wilhelm, 2002)
    • Literacy educators, including parents, public librarians, school librarians, and teachers:

      • a)
        through parents' perceptions of their daughters' and sons' literacy preferences (i.e. Nichols, 2002) and mothers' and fathers' differing support of children's reading behaviors (i.e. Scholastic & Yankelovich, 2008)
      • b)
        through teachers' perceptions and expectations of male and female students' literacy preferences and performance (i.e. Orellana, 1995; Sanford, 2005/2006)
      • c)
        through librarians' expectations of children's (particularly boys') literacy preferences and programmatic responses (i.e. Parsons, 2004)
  • Gendered literacy as a quantifiable achievement gap – For example, in the OECD PISA tests, in reading, girls have continually performed better than boys in primary through secondary school. The gap is especially pronounced at the secondary level and has grown since 2000 (OECD, 2009).

  • Gendered literacy as a biological phenomenon, the result of essential, cognitive differences between males and females (i.e. Berninger, Nielsen, Abbott, Wijsman, & Raskind, 2008; Huestegge, Heim, Zettelmeyer, & Lange-Küttner, 2012)

  • Gendered literacy as the remnant of an historically gendered educational system, including the feminization of the teaching profession in the U.S. and a legacy of underachieving boys (i.e. Conway, 1974; Monaghan, 1994)

The final integrated conceptual model takes into account all of the representations of gendered literacy mentioned above. However, it also demonstrates visually, using a two-way arrow, how the overall socio-cultural context for gender and literacy, in which reading is viewed primarily as a feminine pursuit, both produces and is affected by the other aspects. At this point, the model does not include the sex-based cognitive differences as a formative component because the literature relating to sex-based differences in cognition, although certainly important to any discussion of gendered literacy, is not yet definitive enough to draw clear conclusions.

INTEGRATED MODEL FOR GENDERED LITERACY IN WESTERN CULTURES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. READING IN A NEW AND EVER-CHANGING INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT
  5. CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF GENDERED LITERACY
  6. INTEGRATED MODEL FOR GENDERED LITERACY IN WESTERN CULTURES
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

Socio-cultural context for gender + literacy (in which reading is seen as a feminine pursuit)

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  • Enactment/performance of gendered literacy by children/young adults and by literacy educators (parents, public librarians, school librarians, and teachers)

  • Quantifiable achievement gap in reading favoring girls

  • Historically gendered educational system, including the feminization of teaching in the U.S. and a legacy of underachieving boys

CONCLUSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. READING IN A NEW AND EVER-CHANGING INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT
  5. CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF GENDERED LITERACY
  6. INTEGRATED MODEL FOR GENDERED LITERACY IN WESTERN CULTURES
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES

An integrated conceptual model of gendered literacy is necessary for a variety of reasons. First, it is an essential theory-building step towards pinpointing how gendered literacy is maintained as a value system in Western cultures. Second, over the long term it could have practical implications for library and information science professionals in terms of reader's advisory, collection development, and programming; for literacy educators in terms of curriculum development and pedagogy; and, for parents and young people in their literacy practices. Researchers in the areas of information seeking and use and information retrieval may also find this study useful in understanding gendered approaches to texts. Moreover, a thorough understanding of gendered literacy might influence the creation and marketing of new textual media for young people.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. READING IN A NEW AND EVER-CHANGING INFORMATION ENVIRONMENT
  5. CONCEPTUAL MODEL OF GENDERED LITERACY
  6. INTEGRATED MODEL FOR GENDERED LITERACY IN WESTERN CULTURES
  7. CONCLUSION
  8. REFERENCES
  • Almjeld, J. M. (2008). The girls of MySpace: New media as gendered literacy practice and identity construction. PhD dissertation. Bowling Green State University.
  • Barrs, M. (2000). Gendered literacy. Language Arts, 77, 28793.
  • Berninger, V. W., Nielsen, K. H., Abbott, R. D., Wijsman, E., & Raskind, W. (2008). Gender differences in severity of writing and reading disabilities. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 151172.
  • Conway, J. K. (1974). Perspectives on the history of women's education in the United States. History of Education Quarterly, 14, 112.
  • DiPrete, T. A., & Jennings, J. L. (2012). Social and behavioral skills and the gender gap in early educational achievement. Social Science Research, 41, 115. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2011.09.001
  • Dutro, E. (2003). “Us like to read football and boy stuff”: Reading masculinities, performing boyhood. Journal of Literacy Research, 34, 465500.
  • Huestegge, L., Heim, S., Zettelmeyer, E., & Lange-Küttner, C. (2012). Gender-specific contribution of a visual cognition network to reading abilities. British Journal of Psychology, 103, 117128.
  • Jennings, J. (2011, March 18). Can boys succeed in later life if they can't read as well as girls? The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  • Krashen, S. D. (2004). The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. 2nd ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
  • Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2010). Divergent convergence part 2: Teaching and learning in a transmedia world. Teacher Librarian, 38, 6469.
  • McKechnie, L. E. F. (2006). Becoming a reader: Childhood years. In C. S. Ross, L. E. F. McKechnie, & P. M. Rothbauer. (Eds), Reading matters: What the research reveals about reading, libraries, and community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
  • Millard, E. (1994). Developing readers in the middle years. Buckingham: Open University Press.
  • Millard, E. (1997). Differently literate: Gender identity and the construction of the developing reader. Gender & Education, 9(1), 3148. doi:10.1080/09540259721439
  • Millard, E., & Marsh, J. (2001). Words with pictures: The role of visual literacy in writing and its implication for schooling. Reading, 35, 5461.
  • Monaghan, J. E. (1994). Gender and textbooks: Women writers of elementary readers, 1880–1950. Publishing Research Quarterly, 10, 2846.
  • Moss, G. (2007). Literacy and gender: Researching texts, contexts and readers. London: Routledge.
  • Nichols, S. (2002). Parents' constructions of their children as gendered, literate subjects: A critical discourse analysis. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 2, 123144.
  • Orellana, M. F. (1995). Literacy as a gendered social practice: Tasks, texts, talk, and take-up. Reading Research Quarterly, 30, 674708.
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2009, May 26). News release. School students still being held back by gender perceptions, OECD study shows. Retrieved from www.oecd.org/
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2011, September 6). PISA in focus no. 8: Do students today read for pleasure? Retrieved from http://www.pisa.oecd.org/pages/0,2987,en_32252351_32235731_1_1_1_1_1,00.html
  • Parsons, L. (2004). Challenging the gender divide: Improving literacy for all. Teacher Librarian, 32, 811.
  • Sanford, K. (2005/2006). Gendered literacy experiences: The effects of expectation and opportunity for boys' and girls' learning. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49, 302315.
  • Scholastic & Yankelovich. (2008). 2008 Kids & Family Reading Report. Retrieved from http://www. scholastic.com/aboutscholastic/news/kfrr08web.pdf
  • Smith, J. K., Smith, L. F., Gilmore, A., & Jameson, M. (2012). Students' self-perception of reading ability, enjoyment of reading and reading achievement. Learning and Individual Differences, 22, 202206. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2011.04.010
  • Smith, M. W., & Wilhelm, J. D. (2002). “Reading don't fix no Chevys”: Literacy in the lives of young men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing divides. First Monday, 12(12). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/