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date: 26 November 2020

Literacy and Identitieslocked

  • Christopher J. WagnerChristopher J. WagnerQueens College, City University of New York


This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Literate identities, reading identities, and writing identities describe the ways that a person constructs the self as a reader, writer, and user of language. The study of literacy and identities is grounded in the idea that literacy is not just about skills related to language, print, and texts, but about individuals who must develop these skills. The learning of these skills is mediated by a person’s developing beliefs about language, literacy, and the self. Successful readers and writers enter, make sense of, and produce texts through personal and relational connections. Literacy, in this sense, is not just about knowing, using, and producing language and text, but about ways of being in relation to language and text.

Processes of socialization have often been used to explain how children learn to act and think like readers and writers through the observation, guidance, or apprenticeship of others. More recently, poststructural perspectives have drawn attention to how people are continuously engaged in the construction and reconstruction of identities across contexts, and have led to an attention to identities that may differ across domains. These views have been broadened by critical perspectives that have drawn attention to how relational and structural power guide individuals to think, act, and use language in ways that reflect social structures and history, and create opportunities and constraints for people’s literate identities. These and other perspectives view literate identities as increasingly complex, malleable, and shaped by factors that are both internal and external to the person. Aspects of schooling, including literacy instruction, play a role in directing and supporting these literate identities.