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Gee Whiz

elchiang's picture

I remember the first time I read a novel that had characters that talked like me. It completely changed my attitude towards reading. I began to read one book a week starting in junior high because I loved reading about protagonists that also students who struggled through social problems.

            This reminds me of the Gee reading because of the discussion on discourse. At the beginning of the semester, I did not have a firm grasp on the meaning of discourse. However, now it seems that I do understand it more, or I am at least more comfortable with the vocabulary. One thing that the Gee reading reminds me is the importance for people, especially youth, to see their discourse in other areas of life. Being able to read about people who went through similar issues and reading phrases and words that I experienced on a daily basis was in some way a source of empowerment. It made my middle school self feel less alone in the world to know that there are other people who are similar to me and talk the same way.

            On the other hand, in relation to academics, continually reading books that had a similar discourse as me also influenced my writing. In our educations, the literature we often read is not the way that we speak. However, it does exemplify how we are supposedly supposed to write. This also really relates to the fifth point that Gee makes that literacy and discourse relate to social hierarchy and power. The exposure to texts that have “good” writing in it, will enable us to write better and therefore have more social influence.

            Though I do not have a placement, I volunteer with an afterschool program. When it comes time to read together, the mentees that I have often put up a fight. Sometimes I think about what is more important. To make reading interesting by having characters have a more colloquial discourse or to continue to force proper writing into books in order to have good readers and writers for the future. I know that it is possible to have both, but many times it is not always possible. If I want to read a book that writes the same way that I speak, that is not considered good writing. How do we reconcile the social benefits that books with similar discourses to ourselves to the power benefits that reading “good” books with “good” writing? There may not really be an answer to this question, but I will seek out different opinions in order to gain more perspective. 


alesnick's picture

social benefits / power benefits

You raise a great question here: how to pursue both socially- and power-oriented goals in working with kids and literature.  You note that reading books featuring your discourse and context was empowering to you, so is this an indication of a way to bridge social and power concerns? 

JBacchus's picture

class discussion

I was reading through this and wondering what I wanted to comment about. The last paragraph reminded me strongly of a class discussion.

Do you remember in class when we had the ice-breaker games (with the one where a person goes in the middle and says something they associate with themselves) and one of them was "I consider myself a writer". The class discussion we had after that really me because it lead into how one considers themself a "writer" and does this mean that they are "good" at writing? For example, is a journaler considered a "writer"? Moreover, how do we decide what "good" writing is?

Various answers were discussed and one that stuck with me was does it convey what it's supposed to, and that's my answer to you. Did the writing that was more relaxed (more similar to how you talk) convey what it was supposed to to you? If so, that to me, is good writing, regardless of grammar or anything else. Does an academic paper, that is "good writing", convey it's meaning? Generally, yes. So in my personal opinion of what "good" writing is, there is no reason that "writing" how one speaks should be considered poor writing.

I realize though, that this isn't the opinion of those who officially determine what is considered good writing (who are these people anyway?), and that this isn't played out into schools. But, can we make it be played out into schools through children's storywriting? I'm not really sure where I was going with this thought, but there it is.

Hopefully this blog made appears to me that it's just a stream of consciousness. But there it is.