Foreword by: William Trent
Publication Date: August 6, 2021
Series: Language and Literacy Series
Anne Dyson confronts race and racism head-on with this ethnographic study of a child’s efforts to belong—to be a child among children. Follow the journey of a small Black child, Ta’Von, as he moves from a culturally inclusive preschool through the early grades in a school located in a majority white neighborhood. Readers will see Ta’Von encountering obstacles but finding agency and joy through writing and music-making, especially his love of the blues. Most attempts at desegregating schools are studied by reducing individual children to demographic statistics and test scores. This book, instead, provides a child’s perspective on challenges to classroom inclusion. Ta’Von’s journey demonstrates that it is within children’s peer worlds—formed in response to institutional policies and practices like desegregation initiatives, standardized testing, and a curricular focus on so-called “basic literacy skills”—that inequity becomes part of the experience of childhood. This book examines policies about literacy testing and teaching, including the potential power of the written word and of the arts.
Anne Haas Dyson is a professor of education policy, organization, and leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her books include (with Celia Genishi) Children, Language, and Literacy: Diverse Learners in Diverse Times and ReWRITING the Basics: Literacy Learning in Children's Cultures.
“Anne Haas Dyson’s classroom fieldwork sits right alongside children: heart, mind, and soul. Few researchers have had a career so embedded inside the lives of children in a classroom context. Ta’Von, a key figure in her research, has been a fundamental part of her research over many decades. Writing the School House Blues tells the story of his educational journey. This book should be on every literacy researcher’s shelf. It is a culmination of years of Dyson’s relentless fight against deficit framings of children and the deep inequalities that continue to persist in the world.”
—Jennifer Rowsell, professor of literacies and social innovation, University of Bristol