Literacies of Interrogation and
Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice
Teacher Preparation Designed to Promote
Social Justice in Education
Marcus Croom, Tracey T. Flores, and George Kamberelis
Literacies of Interrogation .. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Literacies of Vulnerability . ....................................................................... 6
Interlude .. . ........................................................................................ 8
Literacies of Interrogation: Racial Literacies as Exemplar ...................................... 8
Racial Literacies: Introduction and Review ...................................................... 9
“Ok, but How?”: Developing Racial Literacies in Teacher Preparation . . . ..................... 17
Routes to Racial Literacies .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Literacies of Vulnerability: Family and Community Literacies as Exemplar ................... 20
Families and Communities as Foundational to Education ....................................... 21
Preparing Teachers to Work with and for Parents, Families, and Communities . ............... 22
Community as Resource in Early Childhood Teacher Education: Involving Parents
and Families ....................................................................................... 24
Family Institute for Early Literacy Development: Engaging Families and Communities
and Critically Examining Our Values and Beliefs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Community Teaching Strand: Building Solidarity with Families and Communities ........... 27
Centering Family and Community Voices Through Stories and Histories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Coda: Developing Educational Experiences that Are Built on the Strengths of Family
and Communities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Conclusion . . . . . ................................................................................... 30
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
M. Croom (*)
Educational Consultant, Brio Education Consulting, Oak Park, IL, USA
T. T. Flores
Language and Literacy, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA
Education Department, Western Colorado University, Gunnison, CO, USA
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
R. Papa (ed.), Handbook on Promoting Social Justice in Education,
To contribute to promoting social justice in education, the concept of literacy
itself must be radically reimagined. This reimagining involves moving beyond
thinking about literacy as primarily an engagement with print (or even print and
visuals), beyond thinking about multiple literacies or new literacies, and even
beyond understanding literacies as social and cultural practices. Instead, we must
come to grips with the living fact that literacy and literacies embody historical,
cultural, social, economic, and political ideologies that, as Marx taught us,
operate “behind our backs”and hold systems and practices of privilege/oppres-
sion in place. To begin to make these ideologies visible and to de/reconstruct
these systems and practices, literacy scholars and teachers must develop literacies
of interrogation and literacies of vulnerability.Literacies of interrogation involve
trying to understand the conditions of possibility that incline us to believe what
we believe, think what we think, and do what we do, and then to de/reconstruct
those conditions of possibility to show that they are effects of particular historical-
social-cultural forces and not universal, unchangeable facts. Literacies of vulner-
ability involve building relationships with students and their families based on
reciprocity, respect, and mutual trust with the goal of making social, cultural, and
economic capital more accessible to all. Both of these reimagined literacies
involve both a de/reconstructive impulse and an ethic of care; literacies of
interrogation underscore the former; literacies of vulnerability emphasize the
latter. In the end, becoming conversant with both kinds of literacies is necessary if
future literacy teachers are to become allies in promoting social justice in class-
rooms, schools, communities, and the world.
Social justice · Literacy · Literacies · Family · Community · Care · Family and
community literacies · Race · Racial literacies
In this chapter, we argue that preparing preservice teachers in education requires
reimagining literacies to promote social justice. This reimagining involves moving
beyond thinking about literacies as primarily some kind of engagement with print (or
even print and visuals) and even beyond literacy education from a culturally
responsive perspective, a multicultural perspective, or a diversity, equity, and inclu-
sivity perspective. Instead, it requires developing dispositions grounded in thorough
understandings of family and community literacies and racial literacies. Key here is
helping preservice teachers develop multileveled (macro to micro) understandings of
learning and teaching as always already embedded in our assumptions of culture,
race, ﬁrst language, gender, class, etc.
Ladson-Billings (1999) noted that contrary to the “Public School Way Back
When (PSWBW)”myth, public schools in the United States are typically linguisti-
cally, culturally, and racially diverse. However, despite this living fact and the fact
that we have a growing storehouse of knowledge about diversity, equity, and
2 M. Croom et al.
inclusivity, we are still doing a mediocre job –at best –preparing teachers to work in
culturally and racially diverse classrooms (Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 1999;
Ladson-Billings, 1991,1995). And we are doing even worse preparing teachers to
teach for social justice (Ladson-Billings, 1999, p. 226).
What do we mean by social justice? There are many ways to think about this
construct. We ﬁnd the deﬁnition proposed by Bell (2007) especially useful:
We believe social justice is both a process and a goal. The goal of social justice education is
full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their
needs. Social justice includes a vision of society that is equitable and all members are
physically and psychologically safe and secure... . The process for attaining the goal of
social justice, we believe, should also be democratic and participatory, inclusive and
afﬁrming of human agency and capacities for working collaboratively to create change.
Thus, a “power with”vs. “power over”(Kreisberg, 1992) paradigm is necessary for enacting
social justice goals. Forming coalitions and working collaboratively with diverse others is an
essential part of social justice. (p. 3)
Therefore, social justice education of any sort in any content area (including literacy)
must be sociological/structural and not only psychological/personal in nature lest it
succumb to deceptive deﬁcit discourses grounded in common stereotypes about
families from cultures not positioned as mainstream. According to these stereotypes,
these families do not value education; they do not speak English or speak it well;
they do not have good manners; they do not know how to parent; etc. In contrast,
from a sociological/structural perspective, these families ﬁnd themselves –through
no fault of their own –situated within multiple inequitable social, economic, and
political relations that limit their access to societal resources such as health care,
well-paying jobs, healthy living and working conditions, and equal access to edu-
cational opportunities such as preschool, well-funded schools, good teachers, and
culturally relevant curricula (e.g., Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990). From this perspec-
tive, social justice means rejecting the idea that problems faced by people of color
and/or people from low-income communities are personal failures. Instead, these
problems are seen, rightly, as effects of multiple unfair forces, structures, and
systems that privilege some and marginalize others. Given these social/structural
realities, teacher educators and teachers need to identify, interrogate, and challenge
the impediments to access, afﬁliation, advancement, and achievement that
Brown and Black students face (e.g., Erickson, 1987), embrace the knowledge
these students have (e.g., Gonzalez et al., 2005), and recognize the resilience their
families have demonstrated for generations (e.g., Valdés, 1996). Teacher educators
and teachers also need to become allies of their students and their students’families,
rather than gatekeepers or judges.
If we adopt this perspective, we need to help preservice teachers develop dispo-
sitions that (a) oppose inequity; (b) question status quo ways of being, doing, and
knowing; (c) understand how structural and institutional forces affect student access,
afﬁliation, advancement, and achievement; (d) understand how the structures of
schools and schooling usually reinforce (but can disrupt) patterns and practices of
inequity; and (e) get to know and engage in genuine dialogue with all of the children
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 3
we teach and their families. We also need to help preservice teachers pay closer
attention to how their interactions with students do or do not involve fairness,
celebrate cultural and racial differences, and embrace multiple ways of being and
In this regard, Gomez (1994) highlighted “how the race, social class, sexual
preferences, and language backgrounds of prospective teachers affects their attitudes
towards ‘Others,’their willingness to live near and be part of communities with
‘Others,’to teach ‘Others,’and to expect that ‘Others’can learn”(pp. 320–321). She
also noted a problematic mismatch between our homogenous teacher population
(e.g., largely White, middle class, English speaking, and mostly female) and their
students (who Lisa Delpit (2006) referred to as “other people’s children”). Despite
these demographic realities, most preservice teachers neither expect to teach children
from different backgrounds from their own, nor are they being prepared to do so in
their teacher education programs. Further, there is a fairly high probability that
preservice teachers’beliefs and dispositions could perpetuate social and historical
inequities, even if inadvertently.
These issues have been exacerbated by the social, cultural, and political climates
that have emerged since the original No Child Left Behind legislation in the United
States. Visions for a more inclusive, socially just public education system have been
rendered almost invisible by the rise of neoliberal ideologies (e.g., Apple, 2001), the
rise of high stakes testing (e.g., Zeichner, 2010), and the increased surveillance and
control of teachers’practices (e.g., Sleeter, 2008). In the face of these conservative
agendas, teaching literacy from a social justice perspective requires rethinking the
nature and purposes of both literacy and teaching almost from the ground up (Lee,
Menkart, & Okaazawa-Rey, 2006, p. 38). The work of Sleeter (2015) is instructive
here. She proposed four dimensions of social justice teaching (a) to situate families
and communities within an analysis of structural inequalities; (b) to develop relation-
ships of reciprocity with students, families, and communities; (c) to teach to high
academic expectations by building upon students’cultures, languages, experiences,
and identities; and (d) to create and teach an inclusive curriculum that integrates
marginalized perspectives and explicitly addresses issues of inequity and power.
To enact these dimensions of social justice teaching in literacy education pro-
grams requires that teachers both work to understand equity from a multileveled
sociological perspective (as we noted earlier) and work to enmesh themselves in the
lives and worlds of their students and their families. We are calling this ﬁrst
requirement “literacies of interrogation”and this second requirement “literacies of
Literacies of Interrogation
Although there are literacies of interrogation traditions that are not derived from the
Western European philosophical canon (e.g., Rabaka, 2006,2009), for our purposes
here, “literacies of interrogation”are largely grounded in what many scholars refer to
as the classic Foucauldian question: “Why are social phenomena the way they are
4 M. Croom et al.
and not some other way?”In other words, literacies of interrogation involve trying to
understand the conditions of possibility that incline us to believe what we believe,
think what we think, and do what we do and then to de/reconstruct those conditions
of possibility to show that they are effects of particular historical-social-cultural
forces and not universal, unchangeable facts.
One of the most powerful of these forces is the human desire for predictability,
stability, and wholeness (e.g., Lacan, 1977). Seldom available to consciousness, this
desire inclines us to avoid (and often even disdain) difference (Bhabha, 1999,2005).
Unless we acknowledge and interrogate this desire, we will never come close to
understanding and embracing people who are different from us and ways of being
that are different from ours. This is a key reason why preservice teachers need to be
taught how to engage in literacies of interrogation. Another force that disposes us to
think and act in particular ways in relation to people from other cultures and races is
our socialization histories. We are not the sole authors of our perceptions, thoughts,
reactions, and actions (e.g., Bourdieu, 1977,1990) because we are all inescapably
constituted within a variety of historically constituted social and political discourses
(e.g., Bourdieu, 1977,1998; Foucault, 1972,1979). These discourses are not
consciously mastered but deeply internalized through everyday practices; yet they
(falsely) appear to be objective facts (e.g., Bourdieu, 1984,1990; Foucault, 1979).
No matter how much we might want to make changes (in ourselves, in our class-
rooms, or in the world), our realistic ability to change is always predicated on
understanding and working against our socialization histories. This is another key
reason why preservice teachers need to be taught how to engage in literacies of
Our ideologies constitute a third force that inﬂuences how we perceive, think, and
act in relation to people of other races or from other cultures. Neither individuals,
social groups, nor cultures ever develop or exist on a level playing ﬁeld. They are
always constituted in and through complex sets of asymmetrical power relations
(Foucault, 1979,1980). Racial and cultural differences, then, are not so much
descriptions of objective reality but judgments we make about other races and
cultures that are grounded in and perpetuate histories of imperialism (e.g.,
Appadurai, 1996; Said, 1994,2003/1979,2003). Moreover, the less powerful (sub-
alterns) are always represented by the more powerful (dominants) in ways that serve
the dominants’interests (e.g., Said, 1994,2003/1979; Spivak, 1988). This means,
for instance, that how students are seen –whether by teachers, by administrators, or
on school examinations –is always ﬁltered through the invisible lenses of dominant
discourses. Even more importantly, racial and cultural differences can readily
“become... sites of contestation, abuse, insult, and discrimination”(Bhabha, 1999,
p. 16). The various ideologies about cultural or racial differences that inhabit media
representations, folk theories, everyday practices, and public policies must therefore
be de/reconstructed. This is another key reason why preservice teachers need to be
taught how to engage in literacies of interrogation.
Because these forces come together in unpredictable ways, understanding how
they shape our thinking, perceptions, and reactions to people from different racial
and cultural groups at any given moment is not entirely possible. However, using the
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 5
theoretical insights mentioned above to understand racial and cultural others can
help us understand and work against at least some of the forces at play in the
interracial and intercultural contact zones in which we increasingly ﬁnd ourselves.
Gaining this understanding and doing this “working against”work is a ﬁrst step
necessary in engaging in critical reﬂexivity, which we believe is absolutely crucial
for promoting social justice in education.
These theoretical insights can help to explain why making changes in our
thinking and acting is something we have to continually struggle with throughout
our lives. They can also help us understand why the differences, tensions, and
conﬂicts we experience when working across lines of difference can be so virulent
and difﬁcult to resolve. Finally, these insights can (and hopefully will) inspire some
humility in us, helping us realize and make peace with the experience of never
completely understanding some aspects of people who live out race and culture in
ways that are different from our own. If so, practicing literacies of interrogation can
be instrumental in our efforts to promote social justice in education and to help the
preservice teachers who are our students do the same.
Literacies of Vulnerability
Literacies of vulnerability place relationships at the center of literacy educators’
social justice work. Indeed, relationships are essential to de/reconstructive, caring
pedagogies. As people “engage in their pursuit together, we interact with each other
and with the world and we tune our relations with each other and with the world
accordingly. In other words, we learn”(Wenger, 1999, p. 45). Thus, “[l]earning is a
fundamentally social phenomenon, reﬂecting our own deeply social nature as human
beings capable of knowing”(p. 3). Freire (2005) echoed and extended this sentiment
when he said “it is impossible to teach without the courage to love”(p. 5).
Accordingly, “learning thus implies becoming a different person with respect to
the possibilities enabled by these systems of relations”(Lave & Wenger, 1991,
p. 53). Additionally, “those who commit themselves to teaching develop a certain
love not only of others but also of the very process implied in teaching”(Freire,
2005, p. 5).
These musings on the nature and functions of our relationships suggest that “self
is never built upon living solely and discretely within our material body; rather, our
negotiation of knowing exists in the embodied relations of who we believe ourselves
to be with others”(Spry, 2017, p. 643). It is “the vulnerable ecstatic story of relation”
(Spry, 2017, p. 638), and it is a story preservice teachers need to hear and begin to
How does vulnerability within relationships come to be? There are many ways,
but we think three of these ways are especially powerful: genuine dialogue, sharing
life stories, and sharing lifeworlds.
Dialogue is a powerful transformative force because it involves love. “If I do not
love people, then I cannot enter into the dialogue”(Freire 1970/2015, p. 90).
Dialogue is also “the way by which [we] achieve signiﬁcance as human beings”
6 M. Croom et al.
(Freire 1970/2015, p. 89) because we “are not built in silence, but in word, in work,
in action-reﬂection”(p. 88). In this regard, Bakhtin (1984) noted that new knowl-
edge “is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is
born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic
interaction”(p. 110). Through dialogue, we take on and internalize each other’s
understandings because “any understanding is imbued with response and necessarily
elicits it in one form or another: the listener becomes the speaker”(Bakhtin, 1986,
p. 68). Therefore, we believe preservice teachers need experiences that help them
engage in authentic dialogue with cultural and racial others, as well as opportunities
to reﬂect upon how authentic dialogue offers unique opportunities for understanding
and further developing themselves as educators.
Sharing the stories of our lives is also a powerful force in becoming vulnerable
and building relationships of care, respect, and love. Milner (2008) argued convinc-
ingly that many preservice teachers (and most of us for that matter) operate with
deﬁcit discourses that render students and their families as disadvantaged, at risk,
unmotivated, etc. (see also Hoover, 1990). It is much less common, however, for
preservice teachers (and most of us for that matter) to think much about the
structural, institutional forces that hold inequities in place and help maintain current
regimes of social, cultural, and racial stratiﬁcation. Even less common is a multi-
leveled examination of the forces that result in inequities. In contrast “successful
teachers in urban schools envision life beyond their present situations; come to know
themselves culturally, linguistically, gendered, racially, economically, and socially in
relation to others; speak possibility and not destruction both inside and outside of the
classroom regarding their students; care and demonstrate that care; and change their
negative, deﬁcit, counterproductive thinking in order to change their actions in the
classroom with students”(Milner, 2008, p. 1574). Milner argued further that “shar-
ing stories (Clandinin & Connelly, 1996) about how different people experience and
make sense of their lives is a powerful way to disrupt discourses that may paint
communities and people of color in grim, dismal ways”(p. 1577). These counter-
narratives index possibilities for how teachers might imaginatively participate in the
worlds of their students and their students’families. Doing this helps teachers
develop pedagogical strategies that are more socially just, as well as critical tools
for understanding and working against structural forces that perpetuate injustice.
Therefore, we believe preservice teachers need opportunities to listen to the life
stories of students and families from backgrounds very different from their own, as
well as opportunities to reﬂect upon how life story inquiry offers unique opportuni-
ties for understanding and further developing themselves as educators.
Along with dialogue and sharing life stories, sharing lifeworlds can be a powerful
transformative force. This possibility was brought into high relief by Shirley Brice
Heath (1983) in her book, Ways with Words, which chronicles ten years of living and
working with students and families in the Piedmont Carolinas. When teachers are
able to share lifeworlds with their students and their students’families, new poten-
tials for thinking, acting, and being become a part of our experience. Freire’s(1970/
2015) insights about the relationship between the resource rich and the resource poor
are instructive here. “The oppressed must see examples of the vulnerability of the
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 7
oppressors so that a contrary conviction can grow within them”(p. 64). Freire
continued, arguing that building relationships of solidarity “requires that one enter
into the situation of those with whom one is in solidarity”(p. 43). Similarly, Tedlock
(2017) insisted that “experiencing other ways of life while working and speaking
with others in vulnerability and solidarity is central to the human sciences today”
(p. 858). Therefore, we believe preservice teachers need experiences that allow them
to dwell (at least to some extent) in the lived worlds of “others”and “other people’s
children”while simultaneously reﬂecting on how these experiences offer unique
opportunities for understanding and further developing themselves as educators.
At this point, it is worth returning to the focus of this chapter: literacies of interro-
gation and vulnerability and their importance in educating preservice teachers. In the
next two sections of the chapter, we unpack a key exemplar of literacies of interro-
gation (racial literacies) and a key exemplar of literacies of vulnerability (family
and community literacies). Although both of these literacies are aligned with both a
de/reconstructive impulse (e.g., Foucault, 1980) and an “ethic of care”(Noddings,
1984), racial literacies are an especially powerful example of literacies of interroga-
tion, and family and community literacies are an especially powerful example of
literacies of vulnerability. As we have argued throughout, both kinds of literacies –
the lion and the lamb –are central to preparing preservice literacy teachers if we
expect them to promote social justice in their classrooms, schools, and lives.
Literacies of Interrogation: Racial Literacies as Exemplar
There are a number of literature reviews relevant to teacher preparation and social
justice in education and in literacy (Ayers, Quinn, & Stovall, 2009; Cho, 2017;
Chubbuck & Zembylas, 2016; Cochran-Smith, 2010; Cochran-Smith, Barnatt,
Lahann, Shakman, & Terrell, 2009; Cochran-Smith & Villegas, 2015; Cochran-
Smith et al., 2015; Guillén, Gimenes, & Zeichner, 2016; International Literacy
Association and National Council of Teachers of English, 2017; Kavanagh, 2017;
Pugach, Gomez-Najarro, & Matewos, 2018; Spalding, 2013; Villegas & Irvine,
2010). We draw from the teacher education literature with the assumption that
teacher preparation in the ﬁeld of literacy should be closely tracking teacher prep-
aration in the ﬁeld of education (and the inverse). In what follows, we highlight
connections between what some of these reviews call for in promoting social justice
as/through teacher preparation and what the racial literacies focus offers. Because
multiple excellent reviews of social justice and literacy education exist, we will not
provide yet another review; instead, we will show how a focus on racial literacies
builds upon and extends the perspectives offered in these extant reviews.
The archival record suggests that in the ﬁeld of education (and literacy education
more speciﬁcally), teacher preparation is still evading race or reifying commonsense
8 M. Croom et al.
views of race, resulting in missed opportunities to promote social justice in educa-
tion. For example, as Willis (2017) noted, “[m]any literacy researchers characterize
race as a variable, identity, pathology, and cause célébre but seldom as a framework
for research”(p. 24). A decade before Willis, O’Connor, Lewis, and Mueller (2007)
made a similar point about race in education research, arguing that race has been
woefully undertheorized and typically treated either as synonymous with culture or
as an independent variable in quantitative studies (p. 541). The racial literacies
concept offers one important way to respond to these critiques and to reimagine
social justice as/through teacher preparation so that engagements with race in
education are theoretically, instructionally, and politically effective.
Racial Literacies: Introduction and Review
Racial literacies are not new. Indeed, as Croom (2016d,2018b)hasdeﬁned, this
necessary and insightful critical practice has been carried out amid multiple, situated
forms of race practice without using the term “racial literacies.”The concept
of racial literacies does, however, make a contribution to practice, policy, and
research –one that helps us further understand race and our situated experiences
within racialized human societies.
An early example of racial literacies dates back to the time when race was itself
actively being invented by Western Europeans. German naturalist Georg Forster,
who was a contemporary of German philosopher Immanuel Kant, questioned the
utility and truthfulness of the concept of race that Kant championed. Among other
things, Forster rejected Kant’s claim that races could be deﬁned by the available
empirical data of their time, including skin color. Forster also pointed out that there
were “two individuals who belonged to different races, according to Kant’s classi-
ﬁcation, but who had a similar skin color and who had a child of the same skin color”
(Gray, 2012, pp. 401–402). Thus, Forster used empirical evidence to debunk “Kant’s
view of distinct skin color as one of the ‘inevitably inherited characteristics’which
established the different races”(pp. 401–402). We see from this history that even in
the early periods of developing what has since become the “commonsense view”of
race (Croom, 2016c,2018b), race was contested and even rejected as obscuring
truths about human beings. Forster’s(1958) own writings illustrate this early
rendering of racial literacies: “Most of the old divisions of the human species have
long been rejected anyhow. Noah’s sons, the four parts of the world, the four colours,
white, black, yellow, copper red—who still thinks of these outdated fashions today?”
(from Forster, 1958 as quoted in Figal, 2008, p. 81). Forster was certainly wrong
about these “old divisions”being obsolete, but the fact that he so clearly rejected the
invention of race as it was being practiced in his own time is a noteworthy historical
example for us today of the importance of racial literacies.
One of the more cutting-edge approaches to preservice teacher preparation, with
respect to literacies and teaching literacies, is what we will call the social justice view
of teacher preparation, which prioritizes demonstrations of multiple literacies from
preservice teachers (Cho, 2017; International Literacy Association and National
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 9
Council of Teachers of English, 2017; for discussion of social justice from the
composition-literacies studies perspective, see Kynard, 2013) and includes a signif-
icant focus on racial literacies. This approach discards racial color blindness –or
better still “color-evasiveness”(Annamma, Jackson, & Morrison, 2017)–and any
form of postracialism to support the development of racial literacies. The social
justice approach to teacher preparation prioritizes “advocacy research in literacy
education”(Cherland & Harper, 2007), “social justice teaching”(Kavanagh, 2017),
and traditions that struggle for justice and against human injustice (e.g.,
vindicationist [Drake, 1987; Hoover, 1990], civil rights movements, multicultural-
ism, critical race theory, culturally relevant or responsive or sustaining pedagogies,
antiracist, decolonizing, Western critical epistemologies, etc.). Certainly print liter-
acies are indispensable for preservice teachers, just as it is indispensable for pre-
service teachers to know how to help others learn print literacies (Cochran-Smith
et al., 2009). Still, print literacies are not enough in teacher preparation programs;
preservice teachers should also be developing racial literacies because these liter-
acies are necessary to promote social justice in education.
To understand this approach, we must ﬁrst reimagine literacies. For example,
Croom (2016a) has argued that print literacies were not enough to save the life of
Keith Scott, a disabled, Charlotte, NC citizen who was killed by the police while he
waited for his child to come home on the school bus (https://www.cnn.com/2016/09/
22/us/keith-lamont-scott/index.html). Among other things, Croom demonstrated
that the practices of reading and writing text were insigniﬁcant compared to the
practices of race that played out in this tragic social situation. He concluded that
racial literacies, beyond print literacies, might have been helpful in that deadly
Certainly, policing and teaching are very different professions (at least we think
they should be), but there are noteworthy resemblances in how both policing and
teaching are practiced in the United States in the 21st century. As has long been
declared, race matters (West, 1993). Yet, it is not always clear to practitioners, policy
makers, and researchers exactly how race matters in education. In helping preservice
teachers understand and practice social justice, the racial literacies concept is
For example, Kavanagh (2017) pointed out that teacher education has focused on
teacher characteristics and beliefs, thereby giving less attention to the practices of
teachers. Relatedly, Ball and Forzani (2009) and Cochran-Smith (2010) have
highlighted the need to focus on teaching practices that can be developed, assessed,
and reﬁned in teacher education. And King has called the ﬁeld’s attention to the
“crisis of knowledge”(J. E. King, 2008)or“equal access to a faulty curriculum”(J.
E. King, 2006) problem in teacher education, which critiques the assumption that
social justice is merely about giving learners access to the curriculum. Instead, King
(2015) argued that the curriculum itself must be revamped for social justice to be
constitutive of education. In this regard, Spalding’s(2013) review of social justice in
education reemphasized that social justice teaching should be understood as being
for and about social justice (Westheimer & Suurtamm, 2009). Spalding (2013) also
mentioned the “demographic imperative”that has been driving social justice
10 M. Croom et al.
approaches for at least the last three decades (see also Croom’s(2018b) discussion of
the “post-White turn”). But all of these considerations of social justice teaching have
raised the need for an explicit theory of teacher education for social justice. Cochran-
Smith (2010) has provided one such framework, as have several other education
scholars (e.g., Chubbuck & Zembylas, 2016; Guillén et al., 2016). Such theorizing
has conceptual and structural implications for carrying out teacher preparation for/as
social justice (Grant, 2009; McDonald & Zeichner, 2009). Additionally, most theory
and research on social justice as/through education distinguish between focusing on
instructional methods and focusing on social justice practices in teacher education
(Cochran-Smith, 2010; Kavanagh, 2017). There is also critique of the fact that much
of teacher preparation has emphasized curricular factors (e.g., course-based models)
rather than practice models of social justice teaching that are threaded programmat-
ically throughout both content courses and instructional methods and courses. For
example, Kavanagh (2017) made a compelling point about integrating “core prac-
tices”scholarship (Grossman, 2011; Grossman et al., 2009) with social justice
teaching in teacher education. Overall, teacher preparation for/as social justice
must be understood within the broader, multileveled historical and political situation
in which we now ﬁnd ourselves as we move toward the year 2020 (Cochran-Smith
et al., 2009; Du Bois, 2001; Hargreaves & Goodson, 2006; J. E. King, 2017; Rabaka,
2003; Schmidt & Lazar, 2016; Sleeter, 2009; Woodson, 1933). Once we do this, we
should see an obvious demand for teacher preparation in literacy education (and
education generally) that foregrounds race and racial literacies (Richert, Donahue, &
Moving in this direction, Collins and Blot (2003) suggested that there is a need to
account for “general tendencies that hold across diverse case studies”in situated
approaches to literacy, including in New Literacy Studies (p. 5). Collins and Blot
(2003) mention as an example of such general tendencies “the frequent historical
correlation of female gender and restricted access to literacy and schooling”(p. 5).
Additionally, they address these kinds of “general tendencies”by showing how
“texts, power, and identity frequently intertwine”(Collins and Blot, 2003, pp. 5–6).
Pushing these arguments even further, Croom articulated a racially situated view
of literacy and literacies by drawing our attention to how race is now imbricated in
nearly all social practices and especially language and literacy practices in the United
States (Croom, 2016b,c,d;2018a,b). Therefore, a focus on racial literacies is, in
effect, a critique of New Literacy Studies (Garcia & Willis, 2016, p. 29), as well as
other situated approaches to literacy, that typically do not account for or address race.
A racial literacies approach, thus, goes beyond the shift from autonomous to
ideological models of literacy/literacies (Street, 2011) by demonstrating precisely
how situated race production, situated race events, and situated race practices are
involved with nearly all language and literacy events at multiple levels –macro,
meso, and micro (e.g., the structural/societal, conventions/policy, and on-the-ground
practice levels; Croom, 2018a,b).
For example, a racial literacies perspective insists on asking for whom is the
“New”in New Literacy Studies (Collins, 1995; Collins & Blot, 2003; Street, 2011)?
This question begins to make explicit that this “New”might be seen as a form of
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 11
“discovery”language indexing racialized Western European traditions of discovery
(and thus imperialism). In other words, the “new”ways of theorizing and
researching “literacy”as New Literacy Studies are not new for all human beings
in all places or times. In this regard, Street (2003a) noted the particularly Western
European perspective of New Literacy Studies (NLS):
NLS from its outset addressed issues of power, counterpoising the autonomous model with
an “ideological”model of literacy. What that meant, at that time, was that not only were uses
of literacy to be seen as a way in which groups in society might exercise power and
dominance over other groups, withholding or providing access to literacy for instance to
chosen groups, but subtly that the very assumptions about literacy—the models that people
held underpinning their uses of literacy—were also sources of power relations.... It was,
then, in this sense that NLS moved toward analysis of literacy in terms of an ideological
model. What Collins and Blot add is a further French intellectual tradition, to complement
the mainly Anglo perspective of many NLS scholars. They add Derrida, de Certeau,
Foucault, and Bourdieu in ways that lift the debates about literacy beyond the Anglophone
concern with educational policy, as in the “Reading Wars,”and towards broader philosoph-
ical and theoretical issues. (p. xiii)
Street is quite clear that both the Anglo and French European perspectives are
privileged in New Literacy Studies (NLS), including what Collins and Blot add to
the scholarship of NLS. This means that the assumptions that underpin the “New”in
New Literacy Studies are fully situated as Western European and Anglo assumptions
(Street, 2003b). As we mentioned in the opening section of this chapter, there are
traditions of interrogation and literacies of interrogation that are not derived from the
canon of European thinkers and their particular assumptions (e.g., Rabaka, 2006,
2009). Therefore, as with other examples of racialized Western European “discov-
ery,”the “New”in New Literacy Studies is a fully situated term. As this begins to
illustrate, racial literacies include critical insights about how race is involved with
social practices and conceptions of reading and writing (Street, 2011), as well as how
literacies are involved with the social practices and conceptions of race (Croom,
2018b). Table 1illustrates this perspective and relates race and literacy (or literacies)
by showing how the racial literacies concept is a critique and expansion of New
Table 1 Racial literacies: A visual of the critique and expansion of New Literacy Studies (NLS)
Race as situated practice
Multiple models of “human”
Practices, not biological
Race involved with social practices and conceptions
of meaning,reading, and writing
(Collins, 1995; Croom, 2016c,d,2018a,b;
Wynter, 2003; Street, 2011)
Literacy as situated practice
Multiple models of “literacy”
Practices, not mental
Literacies involved with social practices
and conceptions of race
(Collins, 1995; Croom, 2016c,d,2018a,b;
Wynter, 2003; Street, 2011)
12 M. Croom et al.
Racial literacies demystify the ideological social practices of race to nurture and
protect human beings amid consequential racial practices, including those racial
practices involved with various literacies. In other words, unlike autonomous models
of literacy (and even other ideological models of literacy), racial literacies are
recognized as critically ideological and as advocating situated, race critical practices
amid various consequential ideologies involved with race and multimodal meaning
(see also the vindicationist tradition in Drake, 1987 and Hoover, 1990).
As Table 1illustrates, the racial literacies concept builds on the recognition of
literacies as situated practice while extending situated approaches to literacy (e.g.,
New Literacies Studies) by pointing toward a practice theory of race that accounts
for and addresses racially situated aspects of social practice. According to practice of
race theory (PRT), race is not universal, natural, or biological; race is consequential
social practice (Croom, 2016c,d,2018b; see also Markus & Moya, 2010). This
means that just as there are multiple models of “literacy,”there are also multiple
models of “human”situated by history and politics at multiple analytic levels of
human experience. In other words, just as the autonomous model of literacy is but
one way of deﬁning literacy, racially White mankind is but one “overrepresented”
way of deﬁning human (Wynter, 2003). Further, when equivalencies are made
between a particular model of “literacy”(e.g., autonomously literate) and a particular
model of “human”(e.g., racially White mankind), racial literacies expose this
association as political and historical (and thus changeable). All of this builds
upon and extends situated approaches to literacy, like New Literacy Studies, to
account for and address situated, consequential race production in social practice
itself and in the teaching, learning, and study of social practice.
Thus far, we have offered an early rendering of racial literacies and have also
shown how racial literacies critique and extend situated approaches to literacy. We
now offer a more recent example of racial literacies that is also an antecedent of the
practice theory of race that Croom (2018b) has articulated. Parenthetically, the entire
book mentioned here, Dusk of Dawn (Du Bois, 1940), is also an antecedent of the
post-White orientation (Croom, 2016c). In Dusk of Dawn, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois
discussed an historical and political view of race that anticipated a practice theory
of race and demonstrated what racial literacies involve:
Thus, it is easy to see that scientiﬁcdeﬁnition of race is impossible; it is easy to prove that
physical characteristics are not so inherited as to make it possible to divide the world into
races; that ability is the monopoly of no known aristocracy; that the possibilities of human
development cannot be circumscribed by color, nationality, or any conceivable deﬁnition of
race; [and yet] all this has nothing to do with the plain fact that throughout the world today
organized groups of men by monopoly of economic and physical power, legal enactment and
intellectual training are limiting with determination and unﬂagging zeal the development of
other groups; and that the concentration particularly of economic power today puts the
majority of mankind into a slavery to the rest. (Du Bois, 1940, p. 137)
From this perspective, race as it is commonly understood in modern times is
“impossible,”and yet rejecting this erroneous, commonsense view of race does
not dismiss as fantasy the consequential practices that produce racial differences
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 13
and lived racial patterns –what Collins and Blot (2003) above called “general
tendencies”across local cases. Race is not biological or natural, yet outcomes
along racial lines are “plain facts”to use Du Bois’language. This is true because
race is consequential social practice at multiple levels and through various meaning-
making modalities (Croom, 2018a,b).
The scholarship of Gates (1986) is instructive here because he has clearly
described the way racially Black folks have been (dis)regarded by the “great divide”
theories that have now been debunked by situated approaches to literacy (Collins,
1995; Collins & Blot, 2003; Street, 1993). More speciﬁcally, Gates traced the
assumed relations between literacy (i.e., autonomous writing and reading) and race
to the beginning of seventeenth-century European thought:
Since the beginning of the seventeenth century, Europeans had wondered aloud whether or
not the African “species of men,”as they most commonly put it, could ever create formal
literature, could ever master “the arts and sciences.”If they could, the argument ran, then the
African variety of humanity and the European variety were fundamentally related. If not,
then it seemed clear that the African was destined by nature to be a slave. (Gates 1986,p.8;
Thus, the persisting 21st century association between literacy and race, and the
multiple discourses and practices that inferiorize racially non-White persons –
especially racially Black persons –where both of these are concerned, is nothing
new in the Western cultural imagination (Grosfoguel, 2013; Willis, 2015; Willis
etal., 2008). Again, the practice of race is embedded within the contexts of countless
“old”and “new”literacies; and the custom of race practice in the United States
(following European custom) is characterized by deﬁciency philosophy, anti-
Africaness, and anti-Blackness (Banks, 1991; Croom, forthcoming; Hoover, 1990;
Kendi, 2016; Robinson, 2007).
Whatever the limits and critiques may be, thus far, of situated approaches to
literacy and particularly the New Literacy Studies tradition (e.g., Garcia & Willis,
2016, p. 29), the “literacies”approach is a useful way to warrant a necessary shift in
the ﬁeld of literacy research and practice: a shift toward more race critical examina-
tions of “literacies,”“racial literacy,”and “racial literacies”in the 21st century. This
race critical shift reimagines “literacies”in the 21st century; acknowledges, accounts
for, and addresses race in situated approaches; and includes multiple levels of
analysis –macro-level, meso-level, and microlevel (e.g., structural/societal, conven-
tions/policies, and everyday practices).
As this review suggests, there is much work that should be done to further this
race critical shift, but there is already a growing area of scholarship and practice
using various terminologies that readily can be organized together under the “racial
literacies”construct. Foundational to this body of scholarship is both Lani Guinier’s
(law) and France Winddance Twine's (sociology) uses of “racial literacy.”We begin
with France Winddance Twine’s concept of “racial literacy”(Twine, 2004; Twine &
14 M. Croom et al.
Racial literacy is a set of practices. It can best be characterized as a “reading practice”—a
way of perceiving and responding to the racial climate and racial structures individuals
encounter. The analytical criteria that we employ to evaluate the presence of racial
literacy...include the following: 1) a recognition of the symbolic and material value of
Whiteness; 2) the deﬁnition of racism as a current social problem rather than a historical
legacy; 3) an understanding that racial identities are learned and an outcome of social
practices; 4) the possession of racial grammar and a vocabulary that facilitates a discussion
of race, racism, and antiracism; 5) the ability to translate (interpret) racial codes and racialized
practices; and 6) an analysis of the ways that racism is mediated by class inequalities, gender
hierarchies, and heteronormativity. (Twine & Steinbugler, 2006, p. 344; italics original)
Twine and Steinbugler go on to clarify that racial literacy is an “everyday practice”
that is not exclusive to transracial parents or interracial family members. In fact, they
point out that racial literacy “is a form of literacy that can be acquired by Black and
non-Black members of diverse racial and ethnic origin as well as nonparents...”
(p. 344). They also note that “[i]ndividuals who are not in romantic relationships
with Blacks can also acquire racial literacy”(p. 361). This is important to note
because Twine’s concept of racial literacy is focused on racially White persons’
everyday negotiations of race, racism, and Whiteness relative to “intimate contexts”
(p. 360; italics original), but the possibility of acquiring racial literacy is not limited
to racially White persons or intimate contexts. All of this suggests that Twine’s
concept of “racial literacy”can be acquired by anyone (of various class, gender,
ability, geographic locales, etc.) who is situated amid everyday, (non)intimate
related, good or ill race practices, including “Black and White members of same-
sex and heterosexual couples”(Twine & Steinbugler, 2006, p. 344).
Another foundational way to think about “racial literacy”comes from Lani
Guinier’s work in the ﬁeld of law and the critical race legal movement, particularly
related to US universities and their admissions policies. Guinier (2003) urged
universities and the legal system of the United States to move away from a narrow,
individual view of admissions practices:
To gain a deeper understanding of the [admissions] problem while garnering public conﬁ-
dence in their admissions practices, universities need to become racially literate. A racially
literate institution uses race as a diagnostic device, an analytical tool, and an instrument of
process. (p. 201)
As she went on to demonstrate, racial literacy reveals that direct acknowledgment of
race and its effects not only beneﬁt individuals who are considered “diverse,”but it
also beneﬁts higher education itself by helping these institutions “realize the social
function and values of higher education, including democratic access, equal oppor-
tunity, and public service”(p. 203).
As an analytic tool in Guinier’s(2003) usage, “racial literacy”questions and
redeﬁnes “merit”and situates “merit within structures of opportunity...”(p. 206).
This opens the way for “democratic merit”which links “an institution’s admissions
policy for all applicants to its educational and public missions, combining a com-
mitment to construe educational opportunity broadly with an obligation to educate
individuals who then serve their communities and the larger society”(p. 206). This
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 15
kind of merit undermines the typical admissions sorting process that creates perma-
nent elites and structured exclusions, especially for those who are not racially White
and/or are not economically advantaged.
With respect to process, Guinier (2003) argued that racial literacy “uses race to
guide participatory problem solving and accountability”(p. 207). In this way, racial
literacy foregrounds the impact of race in admissions processes in order to “shift
their [decision] emphasis from education as a reward for past achievement to
education as an opportunity to prepare for future service and leadership”(p. 208).
As odd as this might sound at ﬁrst, her point is that since the possibility of academic
“past achievement”was legally and practically foreclosed for some, solely because
of racial reasons (Guinier, 2004), this requires that forward-looking criteria be
included in admissions decisions, rather than only backward-looking criteria. In
Racial literacy teaches that the experiences of those who have been left out not only catalyze
a deeper understanding of social structures and make visible familiar yet unexamined
assumptions, but they also enable institutions to check their progress in attaining their
goals. Racial literacy brings these insights to the process of deliberation, emphasizing the
value of dissent, the need to monitor decisions through self-reﬂection, and a commitment to
transparency that includes attention to racial demographics throughout the process. Race
provides both information and motivation to operationalize a process of self-monitoring and
experimentation that is consistent with Justice O’Connor’s invitation to begin “areﬂective
conversation with the situation.”(pp. 210-211)
We see in Guinier’s(2003) meaning of racial literacy that institutions, whether legal
or educational, have the choice to avoid race or to directly use race to their own
beneﬁt and to the beneﬁt of individuals and groups in our racialized society. The past
and current effects of race practice are not debatable. The question is whether the
institution will allow itself, and those impacted by that institution, to beneﬁt from
Finally, Guinier’s meaning of racial literacy points toward the consequential
social practice view of race, rather than a commonsense view of race: “In contrast
to racial liberalism, racial literacy reads race as epiphenomenal”(Guinier, 2004,
p. 114). By this point, she means that:
Those most advantaged by the status quo have historically manipulated race to order social,
economic, and political relations to their beneﬁt. Then and now, race is used to manufacture
both convergences and divergences of interest that track class and geographic divisions. The
racialized hierarchies that result reinforce divergences of interest among and between groups
with varying social status and privilege, which the ideology of white supremacy converts
into rationales for the status quo. Racism normalizes these racialized hierarchies; it diverts
attention from the unequal distribution of resources and power they perpetuate. Using race as
a decoy offers short-term psychological advantages to poor and working-class whites, but it
also masks how much poor whites have in common with poor blacks and other people of
color. (Guinier, 2004, p. 114)
16 M. Croom et al.
As we see, Guinier’s(2004) racial literacy includes “psychological, interpersonal,
and structural dimensions. It [racial literacy] acknowledges the importance of indi-
vidual agency but refuses to lose sight of the institutional and environmental forces
that both shape and reﬂect that agency”(p. 115). In short, racial literacy differs from
racial liberalism in at least three ways:
“First, racial literacy is contextual rather than universal.”...
“Second, racial literacy emphasizes the relationship between race and power.”...
“Third, while racial literacy never loses sight of race, it does not focus exclusively on race.”
(Guinier, 2004, pp. 114-115)
Beyond these foundational uses, other uses of “racial literacy”exist in the archival
literature (e.g., with law in Kaufman, 2007; with teacher education in Rogers &
Mosley, 2008; with rhetoric and composition studies in Johnson, 2009; Winans,
2010 and Grayson, 2018; with educational leaders in Horsford, 2014; with RECAST
theory in Stevenson, 2014; with urban teacher education in Sealey-Ruiz & Greene,
2015;“critical racial literacy”in Brown, 2017 and in Gardner, 2017;“race literacy”
in Leonardo & Manning, 2017;“common racial literacy”and “racial literacy skills”
in L. J. King, Vickery, & Caffrey, 2018; with school leadership practice in Toure &
Thompson Dorsey, 2018; with “the central role of race in classroom management
strategies, options, and decision making”in Milner, Cunningham, Delale-O'Connor
& Kestenberg, 2019, pp. 171, 175-176; and even argued as curricular requirement in
an opinion by Reyes, 2019). More examples of scholarship that uses “racial literacy”
can be found by copying and pasting this exact query string into Google scholar
(https://scholar.google.com) and searching: “racial literacy”and “school.”. This
growing literature shows that there is not a singular “racial literacy”in the
archives but multiple racial literacies that should grouped by a conceptual umbrella,
thereby preserving the unique and complementary contributions of each meaning in
the broad struggle toward racial justice and human well-being –both within and
beyond the ﬁeld of education. Therefore, in addition to critiquing and expanding
New Literacy Studies, “racial literacies”also accurately characterizes this grow-
ing area of scholarship and practice.
With this history and scholarship in mind, when we think about developing racial
literacies today, in more operational language, this means developing those ways of
thinking and doing that support human well-being amid the various processes that
racially situate our lives, and some of these race practices and racial experiences are
violence and trauma(tic) (Croom, 2016c,d; Croom, forthcoming; Hurston, 2018;
Jernigan & Daniel, 2011; Literacy Research Association, 2016; Williams, Metzger,
Leins, & DeLapp, 2018). Since most of our racially situated experience is oriented
by the –baseless and morally bankrupt –assumption of racially White superiority,
racial literacies are counter-oriented by vindicationist, post-White philosophy
(Croom, 2016c,2018b). Importantly, whatever the racial identities of the individual
persons involved, our racially situated experience is typically oriented by the false
assumption of racially White superiority. Therefore, this assumption may inﬂuence,
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 17
or be perpetuated through, any human being’s thought and practice –and this is
routinely the case in the 21st century.
“Ok, but How?”: Developing Racial Literacies in Teacher
We conclude this section of our chapter by sharing an example from Croom’sresearch
(2018a) that is suggestive of some beginning steps for helping preservice teachers
develop racial literacies. Croom conducted a qualitative, multiple case study that
shows how race is interlaced in even what seems to be innocuous literacy events
(Croom, 2018a). Using data from this study, he offered a race critical discourse
analysis of an episode from an observed literacy lesson. This analysis demonstrates
how a teacher succeeded at helping her student develop some print literacies (com-
prehension) but did not help her student develop racial literacies. Indeed, evidence
from the larger qualitative, multiple case study –from which this reported episode was
selected –showed that there were several missed opportunities to develop both print
literacies and racial literacies in the lessons observed and analyzed.
In the episode we unpack here, a racially White, female teacher and her racially
Black, male student (who was himself a youth hockey player) had the following
exchange as they read a teacher-selected text about minorities in the US National
Hockey League (NHL) sport of hockey. The teacher selected this text with multiple
identities of her student in mind, including afﬁnity group, age, gender, and race:
Becca: Ok, what did you highlight there?
Brian: [Reading the text] “...have not been a lot of big [NHL] stars who
Becca: Minorities. Um, hmm. What do you think that...the significance of
Brian: There’s not a lot of superstars that are like, a, a certain color.
Becca: Oh, I agree. I, I, I do agree. Cause there really just aren’t a lot
of non-White hockey players. Don't you think?
Becca: And, and do you have any more thought as to why that might be?
Brian: There’s not a lot of them.
Becca: There’s just not a lot of them. Yeah. Ok. Alright. Let’s keep
As we see, Becca could have moved beyond the parameters of the informational
text she was using to teach comprehension to supplement what is left unsaid,
especially the historical, structural, and other reasons why the NHL has so few
non-White hockey players (James & Gallagher, 2015; Whiting, 2015. Instead, she
left these matters unquestioned and unanswered even though they were relevant to
18 M. Croom et al.
comprehending the text Brian read. Additionally, Becca left any racial analysis of
this situation that might have been constructed where the text and student brought it,
without including her own critical analysis of the text or any critical perspective of
the social reality that the text presents about the NHL. In other words, Becca did not
model for Brian nor ask him questions that would lead him toward being/becoming
what Freebody and Luke (1990) call a “text analyst,”a reader who understands that
texts are not socially or politically neutral and who examines texts for the ways that
they celebrate particular views, conceal other views, and are even designed to
inﬂuence people to adopt particular beliefs and values (see also Freebody, 2017).
We add that a “text analyst”would also consider the meanings that might be
replicated by the readers of texts, what Croom (2018b) has called copypasting
(For instance, replicating from text to talk the meaning of “urban”as “minorities”
and “uniform poverty”(see Croom, 2018b, pp. 18–19)). In this particular case,
Becca did not invite Brian to “interrogate”the content of the text at hand; she did
not bring up the societal/structural engineering of the NHL, the role of conventions/
policy/media in the NHL, or the everyday material and discursive practices that
might begin to account for why there are so few non-White players in the NHL. We
are not suggesting here that this degree of interrogation must be done in every lesson.
Our point is simply that such interrogation should not be left out of all lessons,
especially when a student might be identifying with a text or experiencing a text as a
“mirror”(Bishop, 1990) of their actual or possible selves. This point relates to the
“null curriculum”and the “hidden curriculum”of schooling, beyond the “explicit
curriculum”and other ways of identifying curricular aims and effects (Eisner, 1994;
Jackson, 1968; Ladson-Billings, 2016; Milner, 2013; Woodson, 1933). Although
Becca scaffolded Brian’s developing print literacies during this race event, she did
not help Brian –a racially Black boy who was himself a youth hockey player –
with developing racial literacies during this race event. This also occurred in the
lesson that followed (Croom, 2018b). Given the “commonsense”ways that race is
imagined and practiced, as we have described throughout this section, and especially
the race “evasion practice”of many racially White teachers (Croom, 2018a), it is not
surprising that race and racial literacies were bypassed. What critical learning might
occur if this teacher (and all teachers) were to model for and scaffold students in
developing both print literacies and racial literacies, particularly when racial liter-
acies might advance students’print literacies? After all, has the student designed the
instruction and selected the texts or has the teacher done so?
We see from this transcript that the teacher and student have no problems with the
demands related to the print literacies relevant to this interaction. However, the
teacher is not willing to lead her learner into engaging the demands related to the
racial literacies of this event. Becca rightly raises a useful and relevant question
(“What do you think that...the signiﬁcance of that is?”), but she waits for her student
to take the lead into the race-related aspects of this instructional situation, which, as
we see above, may not occur.
We see through this example that this rich opportunity to develop both print and
racial literacies was lost, but why was it lost? Some might reason that the opportunity
was lost because the student did not pursue the race-related issues of this
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 19
instructional text. This logic may seem right, but actually it fails to acknowledge that
good teaching and learning is not merely student-centered but also teacher-centered
(Chall, 2000). After all, teachers are the symphony conductors, if you will, of
learning-teaching interactions. In this regard, teachers do not generally ask students
do lesson planning, select instructional goals, or set instructional priorities. Quite to
the contrary, teachers generally orchestrate lesson planning, select instructional goals
based on knowledge of the student and curriculum, and set instructional priorities
based on any number of professional and adult insights about schooling and the
world. Therefore, just as it is unreasonable to expect students to lead their own
development of print literacies in teaching and learning, it is also unreasonable to
expect students to lead their own development of racial literacies. Thinking back to
the transcript, despite being an experienced and “highly qualiﬁed”teacher, Becca
missed key opportunities to help Brian be a “text analyst,”a much more critical
reader –apparently because she had not yet herself developed the racial literacies
that would have made it possible for her either to plan for or extemporaneously make
use of these opportunities as they arose. Among other things, this is why preservice
teachers need to understand and develop racial literacies.
Routes to Racial Literacies
To conclude this section of our chapter, there are three beginning steps that teacher
preparation programs might enact to help teachers develop racial literacies: (a) pro-
grammatically reject the commonsense view of race and reorient to the consequential
social practice view of race (e.g., Croom, 2016c); (b) institute or expand safe ways for
individuals to name and monitor their own racial experiences, both good and bad (e.g.,
Stevenson, 2014); and (c) institute or expand coherent opportunities to read and write
about the societal/structural engineering of race and racism; the engineering of race
and racism through curriculum/policy; and the everyday practices that produce race
and that promote anti-racism (e.g., Kendi, 2019; Pollock, 2008). There are many ways
to enact these suggested beginning steps. One promising model integrates “core
practices”scholarship (Grossman, 2011;Grossmanetal.,2009) with social justice
scholarship in teacher preparation (Kavanagh, 2017). This review has provided only a
sample of works from this rich body of social justice scholarship. Many other
important works could have been cited, yet space is always a publishing limitation.
As teacher educators and preservice teachers develop racial literacies for themselves,
there is decreased likelihood of missing instructional opportunities for/as social justice.
Literacies of Vulnerability: Family and Community Literacies as
Scholars have written about the liberatory and transformative ways that families,
teachers, schools, and communities have come together to organize and advocate on
behalf of their children’s personal and academic success (Delgado Bernal & Alemán,
20 M. Croom et al.
2017; Delagdo-Gaitán, 2001). For example, based on years of ethnographic
research, Concha Delgado-Gaitán (2001) shared the stories and voices of a commu-
nity of Latino immigrant families that organized and formed a parent group, Comite
de Padres Latinos (COPLA). Through COPLA, these families took on leadership
positions within the school, mobilizing their cultural and linguistic resources (Yosso,
2005) as well as their experiential knowledge to improve the educational opportu-
nities for their children. At ﬁrst, their advocacy and organizing were met with
resistance from teachers and staff. However, over time teachers and parents learned
from one another by listening and opening themselves up to new ways of seeing each
other, as well as their roles within their families and schools, and as valued partners
in their children’s lives.
What we can learn from Concha Delgado-Gaitán’s years of work alongside
Latino families is that transformation takes time and space to evolve and grow.
When we read her work, we see the ways that families and teachers worked together
to cultivate and sustain relationships built on reciprocity and conﬁanza (mutual trust;
Alvarez, 2017; Valdés, 1996), respect, and care (Delgado-Gaitán, 2004; Zentella,
2005)–practices that are essential to what we are calling literacies of vulnerability.
Through their relationships, families and teachers reﬂected upon their biases and
assumptions while challenging deﬁcit perspectives of Latino students, Latino fami-
lies, and education (Valencia, 1997)–moving from dialogue to action for change.
Families and Communities as Foundational to Education
Educational scholarship on parental and family engagement points to the many
beneﬁts of directly involving parents in the education of their children (Delgado-
Gaitán, 2001; Valdés, 1996). These beneﬁts include enhanced home and school
relations, increased classroom attendance, and improved graduation rates (Arias &
Morillo-Campbell, 2008; Gándara, 2010; Hedges & Gibbs, 2005; Ramirez, 2010).
Speciﬁcally, in supporting youth and families from historically marginalized homes
and communities, schools have worked to create a variety of involvement and/or
engagement opportunities that invite parents and families into schools as knowl-
edgeable and critical partners in their child’s education (Allen, 2007).
However, as schools and community organizations have worked to create and
implement opportunities to include parents and families into classrooms and to
create more inclusive and welcoming schools, many of their approaches have been
unintentionally designed according to a deﬁcit perspective (Valencia & Solórzano,
1997). Programs designed according to a deﬁcit perspective view youth and families
from historically marginalized homes and communities as lacking in language and
literacy practices, subpar parenting skills, and in need of remediation or “saving”
(Auerbach, 1995; Caspe, 2003; Compton-Lilly, Rogers, & Lewis, 2012; Whitehouse
& Colvin, 2001). The design and approaches of such programs do not account for the
existing cultural, linguistic, and familial resources or experiential knowledge of
children’s families and the communities in which they reside (Delgado-Gaitán,
2001; Heath, 1983; Moll et al., 1992; Torres & Hurtado-Vivas, 2011; Yosso,
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 21
2005). Thus, these efforts create a partial and fragmented view of the myriad of ways
that parents and families are engaged in their children’s lives and education (Souto-
Manning & Swick, 2006).
For our classrooms and schools to be spaces in which families and communities
are a foundational part of the teaching and learning experiences of all students,
teacher education programs must equip current and future generations of teachers
with the knowledge, dispositions, and skills to teach and serve collaboratively within
a larger community that extends beyond the classroom walls. First, we need to use
our evidence base, which suggests that the sociocultural backgrounds and experi-
ences that teachers carry with them from their own homes and communities inﬂu-
ence their views and interactions with parents and families (Souto Manning &
Swick, 2006), including the ways that engagement is conceptualized and relation-
ships are built. To help preservice teachers develop productive forms of engagement
and build relationships of care and trust with students and their families, we need to
help them learn the theory and practice of their craft while engaging with students
and families from increasingly diverse backgrounds. Such diversity includes –but is
not limited to –gender, race, languages, religion, sexual orientation, and immigrant
status. Through intentionally designed and organized ﬁeld and practicum experi-
ences, located both within schools and in communities, preservice teachers should
be guided into forms of engagement that promote social justice. These experiences to
engage with and work alongside families and communities must be wide ranging
and should occur early on, often, and throughout educator preparation programs
(Darling-Hammond, 2006; Sleeter, 2008; Zeichner, 2010).
In short, preparing future teachers to work alongside parents, families, and
communities requires time and space to support these future teachers in developing
the skills and dispositions necessary to build and sustain relationships and build
partnerships (Delgado-Gaitán, 2012; Hedges & Gibbs, 2005). As teacher educators,
how do we foreground the knowledges of families and communities to (re)imagine
our teacher education courses, ﬁeldwork and practicum experiences, and programs
to support preservice teachers as they work alongside parents, families, and com-
munities of the students they will teach and serve? Additionally, how do we support
preservice teachers in (re)conceptualizing their work with families and communities
as foundational to classroom practice?
Preparing Teachers to Work with and for Parents, Families, and
To prepare future teachers to work with parents, families, and communities, we must
embed our teacher education programs in the lived realities and concerns of the
communities in which they will serve. Although most colleges of education believe
in the importance of preparing future teachers to work with parents, families, and
communities, most also report that their graduates leave their programs underpre-
pared for building such relationships and partnerships (Epstein, 2018). Reports from
beginning teachers echo teacher education programs in that these novice teachers do
22 M. Croom et al.
not feel adequately prepared to work with families or to communicate effectively
with them (Epstein, 2018; LeFevre & Shaw, 2011; Lightfoot, 2004). Research on
what preservice teachers do and do not learn in their educator preparation programs
tells pretty much the same story. Brand (1996), for example, noted that “[d]espite the
strong evidence supporting the importance of home-school collaborations, prospec-
tive teachers receive little training, information, or experience working with parents”
(p. 76) prior to entering their respective classrooms.
Most programs throughout the country do provide future teachers with ﬁeld-
based experiences to observe highly qualiﬁed teachers and work alongside their
students for an allotted amount of time per week throughout the semester. Programs
also provide practicum experiences by building relationships with local schools in
which the administration provides classroom space for university preparation
courses to be taught –allowing preservice teachers to work one-on-one with their
students and to collaborate with their teachers on different teaching and learning
experiences for students and teachers. These collaborative, ﬁeld-based programs
provide important opportunities for preservice teachers to engage with current
students and teachers. But not only this, they also provide opportunities to learn
about the many people within the school who come together to work with and for all
students and families within the larger school community. In addition, programs with
practicum- and ﬁeld-based experiences have the potential to support future teachers
to begin to understand the lived conditions and realities of the students they work
with through direct and sustained interactions and teaching opportunities.
Typically, within programs with practicum- or ﬁeld-based experiences, teachers
are integrated into classrooms through content area teaching (e.g., science and math)
and/or literacy methods courses (e.g., language arts and reading methods) to practice
and try teaching with a student or diverse groups of students. Epstein and Dauber
(1991) suggest that preservice teachers also be provided opportunities to observe
experienced teachers as they communicate and work with parents. To expand
practicum- and ﬁeld-based opportunities, future teachers also need experiences to
interact with and work alongside parents, families, and communities as part of their
preparation. Certainly, most teacher preparation programs offer at least one course
focused on building family and community partnerships and strategies for develop-
ing programs for engagement (Epstein & Sanders, 2006). However, an emphasis on
supporting and preparing teachers with the skills, dispositions, and practices neces-
sary to work alongside and in collaboration with parents, families, and communities
must be expanded beyond a single assignment or a single course and move toward a
community-embedded approach to teacher development and family and community
Zeichner, Bowman, Guillen, and Napolitan (2016) offered a typology for con-
sidering the different approaches that teacher education programs and K-12 schools
could draw upon in their design and implementation of “teacher-family-community”
approaches to relationships and partnerships. This typology consists of three basic
approaches: (a) teacher-family-community involvement, (b) teacher-family-commu-
nity engagement, and (c) teacher-family-community solidarity (p. 278). Further,
they explained that these approaches for working alongside and cultivating
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 23
relationships with families and communities are not typically mutually exclusive;
schools, districts, and teacher education programs move in and out of enacting these
various approaches based on multiple and shifting epistemological, pedagogical, and
political values, beliefs, and goals.
For example, in thinking about an involvement approach, traditional parent and
family activities might be organized to include Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
meetings, family curriculum nights (e.g., focused on literacy or math), and parent-
teacher conferences. From the involvement approach, these activities are developed
and organized according to a “banking model”(Freire, 1970/2015) in which teachers
and school ofﬁcials are positioned as experts who benevolently share their knowl-
edge with families and communities.
The engagement approach pushes the envelope of the involvement approach by
foregrounding (even privileging) the knowledge of families and community mem-
bers rather than that of teachers as school ofﬁcials to “create opportunities where
teachers can develop an understanding of students’, families’, and communities’
‘funds of knowledge’(González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005) to help them ‘see’student,
family, and community knowledges and strategies and thus better serve their stu-
dents”(Zeichner et al., 2016, p. 279). Within this approach such activities might
include home visits, community walks led by community members, and listening
sessions to learn from families about their goals for their children’s education.
Finally, a solidarity approach is rooted in the “understanding that educational
inequalities (e.g., opportunity and/or achievement gaps) are part and parcel of broad,
deep and racialized structural inequalities”(p. 279). Note that this perspective
integrates literacies of interrogation with literacies of vulnerability wherein solidarity
with families and communities is collaborative and based upon teachers, families,
and community members working in solidarity to create change “from the bottom
up,”with families and communities leading such efforts. Examples of this approach
in teacher education programs and K-12 schools and districts include “Community-
Knowledge-Centered”programs (Hyland & Meacham, 2004) and “Grow Your
Own”(GYO) teacher initiatives (Brown, 2018; Valenzuela, 2016,2017). In the
next few sections, we provide brief overviews of three redesigned teacher prepara-
tion programs that in various different ways incorporate aspects of these different
approaches to work toward building coalitions of various kinds with families and
communities. Despite the hybridity of each of these programs, the ﬁrst program we
discuss aligns most closely with an involvement approach; the second program
aligns most closely with an engagement approach; and the third program aligns
most closely with a solidarity approach.
Community as Resource in Early Childhood Teacher Education:
Involving Parents and Families
A key factor in the development of practicum- and ﬁeld-based experiences for future
teachers is designing opportunities for sustained and continuous interactions with
families over time and space. For example, da Silva Iddings and Reyes (2017)
24 M. Croom et al.
described the intentionally (re)designed and (re)imagined Communities as
Resources in Early Childhood Teacher Education (CREATE) program. The CRE-
ATE program was established:
to foster a departure from deﬁcit-based approaches to the education of linguistically diverse
students in early childhood through engaging the concept of funds of knowledge
(Gonzaález, Moll, and Amanti, 2005; Moll et al., 1992) to understand the cultural, social,
intellectual, and linguistic capital that must be taken into full consideration to improve
schooling and promote equity for all students and for the linguistically/culturally diverse,
in particular. (p. 34)
All course activities and assignments supported teachers as they developed a height-
ened awareness of the complexities of the lived realties of students, families, and
communities by infusing all courses and practicum experiences with activities
designed to help students learn about family and community “funds of knowledge”
(Moll et al., 1992). In addition, these programs included literature and other
resources from diverse groups of people, collaboration with all stakeholders (e.g.,
school administration, families), and expanded ﬁeld experiences beyond the class-
room, which supported preservice teachers to uncover their personal biases and
assumptions about diverse communities, helping them to gain more expansive views
of their role as teachers.
Within this program, a central and intentional focus for developing culturally
competent teachers who work alongside families and communities was the design
and implementation of literacy courses –for both teachers and children –that
centered the role of families as foundational to teaching and learning. To support
preservice teachers in developing deeper understandings of their role as future
teachers in working with families and communities, they developed “ﬁeld experi-
ences”and “course engagements”that included family and community welcome
centers talleres (workshops), literacy cafecitos (coffee and conversation sessions),
and community literacy canastas (open literacy baskets) (p. 38–40). These “family
and community engagements”were designed to provide preservice teachers with
opportunities to have sustained interactions with families, which supported them in
building deep and abiding relationships with families across multiple contexts
throughout their teacher preparation program. Central to these “family and commu-
nity engagements”was providing space for preservice teachers and families to
engage in dialogue and the reciprocal sharing of stories. Speciﬁcally, families had
opportunities to tell their stories in their own words, and preservice teachers had
opportunities to listen and hear their experiences over time and space to gain deeper
understandings of the complexities of the lives of their students and their families.
Importantly, the preservice teachers in this program designed and implemented
family and community literacy engagements in collaboration with students, families,
community members, and school and university faculty and staff. They were
organized with input from all the stakeholders who would attend and beneﬁt from
organizing space to interact and grow together. For example, the family and com-
munity welcome centers (talleres) were organized around the needs and concerns of
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 25
the community and were relevant to their lived realities (e.g., health care, transpor-
tation, immigration). The community literacy canastas (open literacy baskets)
served as an extension of the talleres by inviting children, parents, and the commu-
nity members to engage in sharing and documenting their collective histories and
stories, thus foregrounding the voices and experiential knowledge of the community
in powerful ways. The literacy canasta was a collaborative endeavor between and
among preservice teachers, teachers, students, families, and community members
that was designed to build and sustain relationships among all participants, thus
supporting preservice teachers in engaging families’languages and literacies in
classroom instruction. Finally, the literacy cafecitos (coffee and conversation ses-
sions) were developed collaboratively preservice and in-service teachers and were
created as spaces for families to participate alongside their students in storytelling
and other literacy activities. The literacy cafecitos provided preservice teachers with
opportunities to further learn about families through their stories (reading and
writing) and to better understand the ways that families were involved and engaged
in the education of their children. Throughout their teacher preparation programs,
preservice teachers collaborated to design and implement all family and community
activities and opportunities. This expanded set of ﬁeld experience –rooted within the
community –provided teacher candidates with “the opportunity to interact directly
with the concerns of the community and also to understand the families’circum-
stances as well as the wealth of cultural, social, linguistic, and intellectual assets”(da
Silva Iddings & Reyes, 2017, p. 44), which supported them in (re)imagining their
roles as teachers and the foundational role of families as partners in education. The
“comprehensive redesign”(p. 34) of this program focused on teaching and learning
within and beyond courses to move from “learning what”and “learning about”to
“learning with,”refocusing the preservice teacher experience on “relational learn-
ing”between individuals (p. 37), thereby further engaging literacies of vulnerability
in the education of preservice teachers.
Family Institute for Early Literacy Development: Engaging
Families and Communities and Critically Examining Our Values
An important factor of preparing preservice teachers to enter the respective class-
rooms with the dispositions, skills, and practices necessary to work alongside diverse
families begins with an examination of the values and beliefs and assumptions that
we hold about the families and communities we will serve. Course readings and
assignments and classroom discussions are one entry point; however, intentionally
designed and organized ﬁeld experiences that allow preservice teachers to interact
with families and communities, as described in da Silva Iddings and Reyes (2017),
are more vital to our teacher preparation programs. It is in and through these
interactions with families from backgrounds that are different from their own that
deﬁcit perspectives and assumptions begin to be challenged and dismantled.
26 M. Croom et al.
For example, Riojas-Cortez and Flores (2009) described a collaborative partner-
ship among families, an elementary school, and a local university to engage with
families and communities in ways that drew upon and honored and acknowledged
their “funds of knowledge”(Moll et al., 1992) and other cultural and linguistic
resource, with the belief that school standards and curriculum can privilege this
knowledge. This partnership was called the Family Institute for Early Literacy
Development (FIELD). Within the project, teachers and university faculty and
teacher candidates worked together to explore literacy with students and their
families across multiple contexts (e.g., home, school, community sites) for a variety
of purposes including developing social skills, cultural understanding, and knowl-
edge of math, science, and literacy topics relevant to participants’lives (p. 234).
FIELD provided teacher candidates with multiple opportunities to interact and
engage with families to gain an understanding of building partnerships between
parents, children, and the school.
At weeklong institutes parents and their children engaged in 2-h workshops with
faculty, classroom teachers, and teacher candidates in which they learned together
and from each other. Institutes were designed to provide many opportunities for
parents to share their literacy practices through writing and storytelling.
A unique and powerful component of the FIELD was the collaborative nature of
the family, school, and university partnership. In this regard, FIELD highlights the
necessity for teacher candidates, practicing teachers, administrators, and university
faculty to come together to interact with one another and learn from one another. The
collaborative design of FIELD allowed for the repositioning of knowledge and what
counts as knowledge within the design and facilitation of different components. The
design of the institute centered the “funds of knowledge”(Moll et al., 1992)of
families, who were celebrated as knowledgeable partners in the education of their
children. Family engagement in the institute connected parents to the school in new
ways and provided the teachers from the school with deeper understandings of the
parents’cultural values and beliefs regarding their children, their role as parents, and
their desire to see their children succeed. These new understandings and learning
experiences helped teachers begin to dismantle their own assumptions about parents
and families in important ways.
Community Teaching Strand: Building Solidarity with Families
As discussed in da Silva Iddings and Reyes (2017) and Riojas-Cortez and Flores
(2009), designing teacher education programs and ﬁeld experiences in collaboration
with families and communities provides teacher candidates with opportunities to
develop what we are calling literacies of vulnerability, which are essential for
developing long-lasting social justice dispositions and practices. Both of these
teacher education programs rooted their planning and efforts to engage teacher
candidates with families within a “funds of knowledge”framework (Moll et al.,
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 27
An example of a teacher education program that embodies many principles and
practices of a solidarity approach to teacher education for social justice is the
Community Teaching Strand (CTS) developed by Zeichner, Bowman, Guillen,
and Napolitan (2016). The founders of this program worked collaboratively to
expand opportunities for how teacher candidates learned about working with fam-
ilies and communities. Over two years, all participants in the CTS (i.e., university
faculty members, school teachers and administrators, and preservice teachers) forged
relationships with the Family Community Mentor Network (FCMN), and together
the CTS and FCMN co-constructed curriculum for teacher candidates in their
program. This coalition was an intentional step toward moving the teacher education
program toward a solidarity approach by directly involving those who would be
most impacted by the work of the CTS (i.e., families and communities). Included in
the curriculum that was co-constructed by the CTS and FCMN were panel pre-
sentations and debriefs, geographically based small group conversations, and a ﬁeld-
based seminar course, all of which worked to immerse teacher candidates within
communities while contextualizing their experiences by learning from the experi-
ences and stories of the children, families, and community leaders from that
Centering Family and Community Voices Through Stories and
Throughout these examples, we see the ways teacher educators are working with
preservice teachers to provide experiences for interactions and engagement with
families and communities designed to celebrate their “funds of knowledge,”voices,
stories, and histories. Within these experiences and interactions, preservice teachers
learned about lived experiences of families and the vitality of communities, which
was critical to their developing understanding of structural inequality and social (in)
justice. Now we turn to Flores (2018) work with four Latinx parents and their
adolescent daughters as they participated in the Somos Escritoras/We are Writers
project. This work highlights the intentional design of a program that centered
voices, histories, and stories of Latinx families through art, writing, and storytelling,
which cultivated care and understanding between parents and their daughters, as
well as between and among all families involved. In addition, this work highlights
the importance of sharing life stories for relationship building an intercultural
understanding, and it provides an “up close and personal”example of the ways
that teacher education programs could immerse preservice teachers in experiences
that would help them understand the exigencies of their students’families and the
rich community resources they might draw upon as they develop and implement
culturally relevant educational experiences for their students.
Somos Escritoras/We are Writers was a creative writing workshop designed with
and for Latinx parents and their adolescent daughters (Grades 7–12) that invited
them to draw, write, and share stories of/from their lived experiences. These work-
shops took place on a university campus and consisted of six 2-h long sessions.
28 M. Croom et al.
Workshops were organized to open up spaces for the intergenerational exchange of
stories and experiences. At the workshops, girls and parents read and discussed short
stories, poems, and essays written by Latinx writers and storytellers that focused on
topics such as age, gender, ethnicity, and language. Parents and their daughters used
these pieces and discussions to tell their own stories and share their own histories
through drawing, storytelling, and writing. Importantly, renderings from both girls
and their parents addressed stereotypes, tensions, and contradictions they navigate
on a daily basis (Flores, 2018). Additionally, their renderings illustrated the ways
that parents supported their daughters’desires to embrace mainstream culture and
the life goals it offers, while they also worked to emphasize the importance of
staying closely connected to their cultural roots.
For example, Valente, who participated along with his eighth-grade daughter,
Rocky, shared the story of his immigrant journey from Honduras to the United States
in the form of a letter, which he read at our ﬁnal celebration of writing. The following
is an excerpt from the beginning of his letter:
Hola soy Valente,
Un emigrante Hondureno:
Empaque un par de camias, una gorra, unas fotos, y mil recuerdos,
En una pequena mochila. Me despedi de mis seres queridos y parti de mi
Con la intención de llegar a los Estados Unidos de Norte America.
[“Hello, I am Valente,
an immigrant from Honduras.
In a small backpack I carried a couple of shirts, some pictures, and a
thousand memories. I said goodbye to my beloved ones, and I left back my
homeland in Honduras with the intention to reach the United States of
In his writing, he shared the decision he made to leave his “seres queridos,”
traveling with only a small backpack from Honduras to the United States. In doing
so, he communicated to the Somos Escritoras community the deep love he has for his
daughter and his family, and, he let people know “I am here.”
Like Valente, Blanca’s mother Alma explored the challenges, her scar stories, she
endured throughout her life and the lessons learned from these moments. She wrote,
“Las cicatrices que llevo en mi cuerpo también impregnaron a mi alma ... Son como
memorias que me hacen recordar que no hay sol sin oscuridad.”[“The scars I have
on my body are also printed on my soul ... They’re like memories that remind me
there’s no sun without darkness.”] Importantly, Alma shared these challenges from
her youth with her daughter, Blanca. This writing helped to open conversations with
her daughter so she could begin to share these memories with her and let Blanca
know that she was not alone in her experiences.
Like parents, the young Latina girls reﬂected upon their lives and examined their
experiences in relation to one another and their parents’experiences. Rocky, an
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 29
eighth grader and Valente’s daughter, wrote about change, reﬂecting on her experi-
ence dying her hair, and what that represented for her. She wrote, “I believe in
temporary hair dye because I feel like it represents a good kind of change. I dyed my
hair towards the end of eighth grade mainly because I just wanted to. But, now I feel
like dyeing my hair, I am changing in some way, yet, I can always come back ‘home’
when it washes away.”For Rocky, her writing was an opportunity to take time to
reﬂect upon the daily happenings in her life and relate them to her experiences as a
young woman making sense of these moments. Additionally, her reference to
“coming home”seems to index her desire to maintain her cultural identity.
From my work alongside these Latinx parents and their daughters and our
collective sharing of stories, experiences, and knowledges, I provide some key
ideas that we can take away from engaging with families in a space like Somos
Escritoras. In centering the stories and histories of parents and their daughters at the
center of workshop, they entered as experts of their lived experiences. This
repositioned parents in powerful ways, especially afﬁrming their expertise in their
child’s education. Through the reciprocal sharing of stories, we cultivated relation-
ships built on conﬁanza [mutual trust], in which we all entered as listeners and
learners of one another. This created new potentials for relationships between
families and school personnel (e.g., classroom teachers, principals). When teachers
and other educators listen to and really hear the parent’s life stories and family
histories of their communities, we can gain a deeper understandings both of the
complexity and the vitality of their lives, which can help us ﬁnd ways to build
relationships of solidarity with them and more culturally relevant educational expe-
riences for their children.
Coda: Developing Educational Experiences that Are Built on the
Strengths of Family and Communities
Within today’s political moment in which Black and Brown communities are
increasingly surveilled by police, while immigrant communities fear deportations
and family separations, and school shootings are a daily occurrence; there is height-
ened urgency to prepare preservice teachers to understand the lived realities and
conditions of the students, families, and communities they serve. Current and future
generations of educators entering our classrooms must be equipped with the knowl-
edges, dispositions, and skills to teach in ways that honor the diversity of the
children, families, and communities that they will serve (Brown, 2013). Preservice
teachers must have opportunities across their teacher education programs to interact
and engage with families and communities throughout their studies.
Teacher education programs across the country are uniquely positioned to work
systematically toward disrupting and challenging traditional (current) models of
preparing future teachers. The models discussed in this section illustrate the ways
that programs are working to reframe teacher education by truly embedding them-
selves in communities while working alongside them in necessary ways.
30 M. Croom et al.
From the examples we have shared in this chapter, we see how teacher educators
have (re)imagined teacher education programs, ﬁeld experiences, and practicum
opportunities to provide preservice teachers with valuable experiences to work
alongside parents, families, and community members. These experiences were
rooted in the needs and concerns of families, communities, and schools. The
intentional designs and organization of the experiences started from the resources
and experiences of families who were invited to participate and engage in ways that
honored and celebrated their values and beliefs. Each unique experience was imag-
ined within a “funds of knowledge”(Moll, et al., 1992) framework, which privileges
the cultural and linguistic resources and experiential knowledge of students and
families in expanded visions of coursework and practicum experiences that involve
preservice teacher entering into the worlds of families as learners and listeners.
2019 marks 400 years since “20 and odd”African human beings were captives
among an ongoing settler colonial invasion by transnational Western Europeans
america/). This more recent, somewhat unremarkable, 1619 arrival should be under-
stood within the context of multiple prior arrivals made by Africans, including the
likely ancient arrivals of Africans to the shores of what became North and South
America (Clegg, 1975; Freedman, 2007, p. vi). The year 2019 also marks 454 years
since Saint Augustine introduced Catholicism and the Spanish language to what is now
the state of Florida through the ﬁrst European settlement of the United States (http://
www.pbs.org/latino-americans/en/timeline/). As this public media timeline also shows,
2019 is almost 200 years after racially White settlers came to the Mexican state of
Texas at the invitation of the independent government of Mexico. This unfolding
history and more (Baca, 2009), with all of its complex multisectoral implications,
constitutes the situation out of which this chapter was written.
As this history and this chapter suggest, there have been and continue to be
common struggles against Western European and American ideologies and assump-
tions of superiority and common struggles for justice. We mention this history not
only because it situates this chapter but also because this history continues to mediate
the way we view ourselves and the way we view those persons who are directly or
indirectly around us, our schools and communities, and our world. Preservice
teacher preparation must account for the ways that history, ideology, institutions,
class, gender, language, race, etc. have been mediating and continue to mediate our
thinking and actions in the 21st century work of schooling (de Castell & Luke,
1983; Du Bois, 2001; Fleming, Catapano, Thompson & Carrillo, 2015; Lewis, 2011;
Payne, 2010; Pinder, 2012; Sanders, Stovall & White, 2018; Shujaa, 1994; Spring,
2018; Tozer, Senese & Violas, 2009; Woodson,1933).
As we have shown, racial literacies demystify the embeddedness and effects of
race. This transformed way of thinking and doing not only deconstructs racism,
xenophobia, sexism, classism, etc. (by surfacing the embeddedness and effects of
Literacies of Interrogation and Vulnerability: Reimagining Preservice... 31
race in each) , but it also supports approaches to teacher preparation that aim to bring
family and community literacies to bear in schooling to enhance the human devel-
opment of all children. But in both cases, whether practicing literacies of interroga-
tion or literacies of vulnerability, the transformation begins with interactive and
individual understandings and practices that reject deception, no matter how well-
intended, and that urgently insist upon regarding the humanity of all. In neither case,
whether practicing literacies of interrogation or literacies of vulnerability, does this
involve autonomous views of literacy or postracialism. The harmful schooling
norms that we hope to mitigate and eventually eliminate are themselves a result of
harmful human practices carried out over a long period of time. These harmful
practices –often inﬂicted through schooling –are not inevitable or unchangeable
unless we make them so. Therefore, including within teacher education pro-
grams reimagined literacies, the developing of racial literacies, and the developing
of family and community literacies seems a moral imperative in the twenty-ﬁrst
century because all of these support human beings’healthy capacity to save our-
selves from ourselves, especially through our cultural heritage of teaching and
learning –including public education.
As we have tried to demonstrate, practicing literacies of interrogation and liter-
acies of vulnerability is not all that hard to do. For example, recall that we suggested
three practices that teacher preparation programs could readily endorse that would
help preservice teachers develop racial literacies (and literacies of interrogation in
relation to any sources of injustice). They could encourage preservice teachers to
programmatically reject the commonsense view of race and reorient to the conse-
quential social practice view of race (e.g., Croom, 2016c). They could institute or
expand safe ways for individuals to name and monitor their own racial experiences,
both good and bad (e.g., Stevenson, 2014). And they could institute or expand
coherent opportunities to read and write about the societal/structural engineering
of race and racism, the engineering of race and racism through curriculum/policy,
and the everyday practices that produce race and that promote anti-racism (e.g.,
Pollock, 2008). Doubtless there are many other initial steps that could help pre-
service teachers develop literacies of interrogation.
Recall as well that we offered ideas about multiple ways that teacher preparation
programs could help preservice teachers learn about and realize the importance of
the family and community literacies that are part of the rich “funds of knowledge”
(Gonzalez et al., 2005) their future students always already have access to but are
usually invisible to most teachers. One way to help preservice teachers develop
literacies of vulnerability is to provide them with experiences to listen to the life
stories of parents with children in nearby schools, as well as the histories of
communities parallel to the mainstream. Another way is to center practice and
ﬁeld experiences on community involvement and service learning activities such
as the ones described by Riojas-Cortez and Flores (2009), da Silva Iddings and
Reyes (2017), and Zeichner, Bowman, Guillen, and Napolitan (2016). Doubtless
there are many other initial steps that could help preservice teachers develop
literacies of vulnerability.
32 M. Croom et al.
Whether and how teacher preparation programs respond to calls for “upping their
game”to promote social justice by fully embracing literacies of interrogation and
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