By Deborah Bieler
Author of The Power of Teacher Talk: Promoting Equity and Retention Through Student Interactions
Deborah Bieler is a professor in the English education program Read More
Scientific inquiry requires literacy in many of the phases. Scientists read scientific journal articles and write explanations to support scientific hypotheses. They share their research results with other scientists and the public through speaking and writing. Then other scientists read these results in a scientific journal and the inquiry cycle begins again.
Many White teachers, like us, enter the field enamored of characters like Huck for what they allow us to feel as White people, especially in relation to people of color: heroic, on the right side of history, doing our part to combat racism through our teaching of literature. This is partly why so many of us reach for a text like Huckleberry Finn when we think about how it is that we (think) we address racism through our literature instruction. It feels good to “join” Huck in his decision to help Jim. And pointing out this decision through our teaching feels like we are doing work towards antiracist ends.
In most Western European nations (with a few exceptions, such as the U.K.), children learn to read at the age of 6. Even in the U.S., the practice of teaching children to decode words at age 5 is fairly recent. Teaching reading in kindergarten became popular with the rise of standardized testing. This was based on the assumption that early reading would give children a head start, allowing them to do better on the standardized tests they would take in the upper elementary grades. Did the strategy work?