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Writing the School House Blues

Literacy, Equity, and Belonging in a Child’s Early Schooling

Anne Haas Dyson William Trent

192 pages
Teachers College Press

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.

Book Features:

  • A fresh approach to issues of inclusion, equity, and learning opportunities as seen through a child’s eye.
  • Narrative vignettes that bring to life the equity issues of everyday school experiences.
  • An overview of the kinds of challenges to inclusion that may be faced by minoritized children in majority-dominated schools.
  • Details about changing institutional literacy policies and practices over time and grade level, emphasizing their impact on relationships and learning.
  • Examples of teachers and children enacting inclusive communities.
Author Bio

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.