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Literacy in American Lives

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  102 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
Literacy in American Lives traces the changing conditions of literacy learning over the past century as they were felt in the lives of ordinary Americans born between 1895 and 1985. The book demonstrates what sharply rising standards for literacy have meant to successive generations of Americans and how--as students, workers, parents, and citizens--they have responded to r ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 30th 2010 by Cambridge University Press (first published September 5th 1997)
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Jun 03, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literacy-comps
In Literacy in American Lives (2001), Deborah Brandt explores the literacy practices and memories of 80 Americans living in rural Wisconsin in the 1990s, born between 1895 and 1985. She takes a contextual approach, in order to avoid simplifying literacy as a mere matter of decoding and encoding (3), and understands that literacy practices are often in response to large scale and local economic change, as well as influenced by history (4). Literacy for Brandt is "a resource—economic, political, i ...more
Feb 16, 2015 Aaron rated it liked it
It's hard to get my thoughts on this book together. In one regard I think it presents a lot of interesting information, but it was also painfully boring for me. Part of my problem with this book is that the material wants so badly to be interpreted with Marxism but the book refuses it this luxury. Most of what I read seemed like common sense once I understood the author's views introduced here. Most valuable parts are the introductions and conclusions. Unless you're particularly interested in a ...more
Bruce Martin
Jan 25, 2015 Bruce Martin rated it it was amazing
Easily one of the finest studies of literacy I've read. Each chapter looks at a different form of literacy and how it changed in the 20th century to bring us to the 21st. The methodology is sound, her subjects' experiences are intriguing, and Brandt's discussion of literacy in a democracy is one that everyone should read. Though the sampling is geographically problematic (mid-western, all), the methodology used is one that we should examine in other populations. The use of mid-western subjects i ...more
Oct 13, 2014 Tracey rated it it was amazing
Quote from the book: [Literacy] "It favors the richer over the poorer, the freer over the jailed, the well connected over the newly arrived or left out." Literacy IS a civil rights issue.

The literacy narratives of 80 people born between 1895-1985 illuminate the intersections of politics, economic change, and educational access on literacy learning and sponsorship. Sponsors can provide access or deny access and as the world changes so do the sponsors in American lives.

This books is thought prov
Betsy Gilliland
Feb 23, 2016 Betsy Gilliland rated it it was amazing
While it's now a bit dated in terms of the modern stuff (Brandt conducted the interviews in 1995 and speculates about literacy in the 21st century), this book provides an intriguing analysis based on interviews with 80 Americans born between 1895 and 1980 about their reading and writing lives. What's particularly meaningful is her awareness of how historical literacy has had different effects for people of color as opposed to white people and how what are valued literacy practices for whites can ...more
Adam Sprague
Oct 12, 2011 Adam Sprague rated it did not like it
In the intro, Brandt outlines what she is going to do (in immense detail). Then in the conclusion, she outlines (again) what she already talked about (in immense detail). Between those sections we have fairly boring literacy narratives.

In short, you can read the intro and conclusion and know more than you'd need to know. The reader learns nothing from reading the actual literacy narratives.

Brandt makes the focus on her, rather than literacy.
Nov 18, 2012 Ginny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
This book literally changed the way I view literacy and my responsibility as a teacher of literacy, what Brandt would call a "sponsor" of literacy. If you are at all interested in literacy in America, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It's a beautifully written sociological study of the past, present, and future of literacy in the USA.
Sep 23, 2009 E.H. rated it really liked it
Deb Brandt surveys eighty Americans born between 1895-1995 and comes up with a new theory of literacy as tied up in a network of social and economic forces which can sponsor or discourage literacy learning. She also examines the history of American literacy and the increasing literacy demands on citizens.
Stephanie McClure
Dec 06, 2009 Stephanie McClure rated it liked it
Brandt is a literacy ethnographer who interviews 80 different people about literacy in their lives. There are many interesting topics discussed; however, much to my disappointment I find that this study has little diversity within it.
Mar 31, 2009 Lenore rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dissertation
lovely backdrop to situating literacy culturally and historically. graceful yet cogent prose. a classic in literacy research.
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