There is a new buzzword in education: Critical Literacy. Isn’t it ironic that my colleagues and I questioned the validity, impact and importance of this new policy we were expected to inject into our practice…
Teachers do this innately – we question. We analyze and we interpret. We essentially practice Critical Literacy in all facets of our life - so why shouldn’t we be teaching this to our students?
This importance and severity of this issue did not become apparent to me until I began writing a blog. I quickly learned that anyone with WIFI became an “expert” on what they were writing about. I breathed a sigh of relief in knowing that future generations will not be as gullible. They will know that Critical Literacy matters and it will become their most valuable weapon when wading through the waters of social media. Growing up without critical literacy in the information age is much like growing up without a skill during the industrial revolution.
“Students today experience a constant stream of ideas and information – online, in print and through electronic games and mass media. They need skills to determine where to direct their attention and how to interpret messages and use them appropriately.” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2004).
Critical Literacy is about the reader as a consumer. It is about being inundated with information, ideas and opinions and not just accepting it at, “face value.” The critical reader is always thinking about how the text relates to broader issues like: fairness, equity and social justice. Although some texts state multiple opinions and perspectives, it is the critical reader who must determine this and decide if there is bias and whose voices are present or absent.
Critical literacy looks beyond the literal meaning of text. We must constantly check in with our children to see if they are thinking about what they’ve read in a critical way. With so much information bombarding us 24/7, we need to set a high standard for what and more importantly, how, our children read. As parents, we need to teach them not to believe everything they read or see.
As we monitor their reading, here are some questions to help develop Critical Literacy skills:
What is the purpose of their reading? (Information? Enjoyment? To form an opinion?)
Why was this written? To inform? To make money? To influence our opinion?
Who is the author?
Whose perspective is it?
Is the text fair? Is there bias? What has been left out? Who (person or group?) has been left out?
Do you need to check information with another source?
Can you believe what you’re reading? How do you know?
Who is the target audience?
Did the author intentionally omit information? Why?
Practice “Critical Literacy” with your kids…you might also improve your literacy skills.
Until our next lesson…