Representations of the racialized experiences of African Americans in developmental reading textbooks.
Race plays a major role in the lived experiences of African
Americans. Consequently, race significantly impacts the identities and
educational experiences of
Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race.
college students–many of
whom require developmental reading courses. These courses, which are
gateway courses in higher education, should address race along with
reading skill development to increase engagement and success among
African American students. This study investigates developmental reading
curriculum, as exemplified by developmental reading textbooks, to
determine how African Americans and their experiences related to race
are represented and framed. Using
Critical Race Theory
theoretical framework, I conducted a qualitative content analysis of
reading selections in a sample of five of the most recently published,
top-selling developmental reading textbooks. Along with the findings of
this study, the implications for developmental reading pedagogy and
African American student engagement and success are discussed.
Research indicates that as a result of racial disparities within
the educational system, African American college students too often
enter college needing additional preparation for academic success (Gay,
2000; Hale, 2001; Moore, 2001; Murrell, 2002; Thayer, 2000;
n. 1. A red Madeira wine, wanting the high aroma of the white sorts, and, when old, resembling tawny port.
1993). In light of this, these students are more likely than their White
counterparts to place into developmental reading coursework (Attewell,
Lavin, Domina, & Levey, 2006; Boylan, Bonham, & White, 1999;
Kinzie, Gonyea, Shoup, & Kuh, 2008). This is particularly important
as “reading abilities strongly influence performance in other
academic tasks and subjects” (Gay, 2000, p. 130). Specifically
relate prep →
relate prep → ,
developmental reading coursework, Zhang (2000) asserts that
students requiring remediation in reading are much less likely to
persist to degree completion than students who need remediation in math
or writing. The role of developmental reading coursework in student
persistence decisions has also been explored by the National Center for
Education Statistics (2005) that cites the need for remediation in
reading as the most serious barrier to degree completion because reading
difficulties are often reflective of general literacy problems that may
inhibit mastery of the content in other subject areas. As enrollment in
developmental reading coursework increases among African American
students, the need for more effective and relevant reading pedagogies
becomes more salient.
Race, Identity, and the Educational Experiences of African
Literacy research emphasizes a
A term used in alternative health for a philosophical approach to health care, in which the entire Pt is evaluated and treated. See Alternative medicine, Holistic medicine.
engage in skill development through meaningful reading, writing, and
thinking activities that are relevant to their lives and experiences
(Degener, 2001; Freire, 1970, 1991; Gay, 2000; Hale, 2001; Paulson &
Armstrong, 2010; Williams, 2008, 2009; Wood, 2003). Particularly
relevant to engagement and persistence among African American students,
Kinzie et al. (2008) suggest that institutions tailor developmental
coursework to the specific social, cultural, and educational
characteristics of these students since they have the highest enrollment
in these courses. Furthermore, they
v. im·plored, im·plor·ing, im·plores
1. To appeal to in supplication; beseech:
developmental educators to
adopt a “talent development” philosophy, curriculum, and
instructional practices that honor the experiences of these learners and
view the talents and skills that they bring into the classroom as assets
rather than deficiencies (Kinzie et al., 2008). For example,
developmental reading instructors should assign readings that speak to
the students’ experiences. This practice is supported by Gay (2000)
and Hale (2001) in their research on culturally relevant pedagogy and
the effective education of African American students. In order to tailor
developmental reading curriculum and pedagogy to the needs of African
American students, instructors must understand the factors that are most
pivotal to the students’ academic success and persistence.
Several researchers cite the
n. pl. sa·li·en·ces also sa·li·en·cies
1. The quality or condition of being salient.
2. A pronounced feature or part; a highlight.
of race, racism, and racial
identity in the educational experiences and outcomes of African American
students (Gay, 2000; Hale, 2001; Jennings & Lynn, 2005; Lynn &
Parker, 2006; Moore, 2001; Murrell, 2002; Patton, McEwan, Rendon, &
Howard-Hamilton, 2007). While college student development theory and
research offers some examination of these issues, Patton et al. (2007)
draw attention to the limited “use of language about race and
considerations of the roles of racism in students’ development and
learning” (p. 39). In light of this situation, they advocate for a
critical race perspective in theory, research, and practice
intr.v. per·tained, per·tain·ing, per·tains
1. To have reference; relate:
to higher education and student development.
As it is used in educational contexts, Critical Race Theory (
is defined as “an interdisciplinary attempt to approach educational
problems and questions from the perspectives of women and men
” (Jennings & Lynn, 2005, p. 25). The
The premise containing the major term in a syllogism.
Noun 1. major premise – the premise of a syllogism that contains the major term (which is the predicate of the conclusion)
is that racism is a central part of American life. This theory rejects
the notions of America as a fair,
Partially or totally unable to distinguish certain colors.
n. pl. mer·i·toc·ra·cies
1. A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.
. Instead, CRT
takes the stance that racism has played a key role in all contemporary
manifestations of unequal power, unequal privilege, and unequal wealth
between racial groups in American society (Jennings & Lynn, 2005;
Lynn & Parker, 2006; Ryan & Dixson, 2006).
Obviously, racism is particularly problematic for those in
subordinated racial groups, like African Americans. The idea of Black
inferiority is communicated in various venues of society, including
education. Specifically related to literacy education, Willis (2008)
illuminates the undercurrent of racism in reading theory and practice.
Her extensive research on the historical, social, and political
foundations of reading comprehension and testing in the U.S. reveals how
“reading material was used to
tr.v. in·cul·cat·ed, in·cul·cat·ing, in·cul·cates
1. To impress (something) upon the mind of another by frequent instruction or repetition; instill:
dominant ideologies as
common sense” and how “books written for African American
students were designed to reproduce dominant ideologies as natural,
Having or exhibiting native good judgment:
, and universal” (p. xi). This impact of racism in
literacy education is echoed by Delpit (2006) who asserts that
“there can be no doubt that in many classrooms students of color do
reject literacy, for they feel that literate discourses reject
them” (p. 160). It is evident that within education African
American students are continually faced with the task of “beating
the odds” that are stacked so high against them. This can
negatively impact these students’ confidence and motivation.
Furthermore, bombarded with negative discourse and images, African
Americans students may often find it difficult to maintain a positive
identity (Moore, 2001; Murrell, 2002; Smedley, 2008; Spencer, 1999;
Stevenson & Arrington, 2009).
While the construction of an identity is a perpetual process
spanning the course of a lifetime, identity development is most crucial
during adolescence and the college years (
Variant of bur.
1. a plant seed capsule carrying many hooked structures which catch in animal coats thus promoting dissemination of the plant.
& Halpin, 1998;
Kalsner, 1992). Several researchers have indicated that the task of
identity development for non-White youth is exacerbated given our
racially hostile society (Burr & Halpin, 1998; Kalsner, 1992;
Spencer, 1999). Not only do African American students have to deal with
the normative issues of identity, but they also have to contend with the
stress and alienation that accompany the threat and experience of
racism. Thus, the construction of an identity among these students is a
lengthier and more fragile process. Unresolved identity issues can have
an enormous negative impact on academic achievement (Kalsner, 1992;
Spencer, 1999). Consequently, researchers advocate that faculty provide
support to African American students as they work through racial
identity issues and transition into academia (Davis, 1994). Furthermore,
instructors can facilitate the resolution of racial identity by
fostering cultural consciousness in the classroom (Kalsner, 1992).
Also related to identity are self-esteem and self-efficacy–both of
which have an impact on student engagement and success. Students who
feel confident in their academic and social abilities are more likely to
be motivated and involved in their academic pursuits (Kalsner, 1992;
Moore, 2001). In a study of pre-college preparation, Welch, Hodges, and
Payne (1996) found that fostering a “scholar-identity” had
strong implications for college success among African American students.
, African American students who view themselves as
academically competent are more likely to be successful and persist to
degree completion. These claims are supported by
research, which indicates that students with a mastery orientation as
opposed to a helpless orientation are more likely to be motivated to
persist despite any experiences of failure (Kalsner, 1992). The reason
for this perseverance is that mastery-oriented students perceive
themselves as having the power and ability to be successful whereas
helpless-oriented students perceive themselves as academically
Similar conclusions have been drawn through research on
A theoretical construct designed to assess a person’s perceived control over his or her own behavior. The classification internal locus indicates that the person feels in control of events; external locus
, which refers to the extent that individuals feel that they have
power over their outcomes. Students with an external locus of control
feel that they personally are very limited in their power and ability
and that others have far more power and ability to determine their
academic outcomes. This psychological state often translates into
diminished academic motivation, involvement, and success. On the other
hand, students with an internal locus of control feel that they
personally are very much in control of their academic outcomes.
Therefore, these students tend to put forth greater effort and achieve
greater success. However, Kalsner (1992) cites an important caveat to
control orientation research as it relates to African American students.
For these students, a dual control orientation is linked to increased
motivation and achievement. In other words, if they are to be
successful, African American students benefit from being made aware of
Involving both social and political factors.
of or involving political and social factors
barriers to their success in addition to
having confidence in their personal abilities (Kalsner, 1992). This is
very similar to racial
/so·cial·iza·tion/ () the process by which society integrates the individual and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways.
research which stressed the
importance of dual socialization for African American youths where they
are made conscious of the racial hostility they may encounter in society
in addition to being given a sense of racial and cultural pride
(Stevenson & Arrington, 2009; Ward, 2000).
For African American college students race, racism, and racial
with their educational experiences in complex and
critical ways and have an important impact on these students’
engagement in their college coursework (Burt & Halpin, 1998;
Kalsner, 1992; Moore, 2001; Smedley, 2008; Spencer, 1999; Stevenson
& Arrington, 2009; Ward, 2000). Paulson and Armstrong (2010)
“stress the importance of including an understanding of identity in
postsecondary literacy educational contexts” (p. 3). Specifically,
they emphasize that students do not meet their academic goals by simply
mastering basic skills through a linear process. Instead, reading has a
variety of purposes that are dependent upon a variety of academic and
discourse-community contexts. Students most need to be able to recognize
and navigate these contexts; this recognition and navigation involves
“sophisticated matters of socialization and
culture changes resulting from contact among various societies over time. Contact may have distinct results, such as the borrowing of certain traits by one culture from another, or the relative fusion of separate cultures.
3) that are ultimately linked to students’ identities (Paulson
& Armstrong, 2010). Patton et al. (2007) cite that “the
classroom–where knowledge is constructed, organized, produced and
distributed–is a central site for the construction of social and racial
power” (p. 49). They further explain that too often, college
faculty ignore the role of race and its systematic complexities and
while doing so further disadvantage students of color. Emphasizing the
importance of reading curriculum and pedagogy that reflects the
racialized identities and experiences of African American students, Gay
(2000) asserts that literature “is a powerful medium through which
students can confront social injustices, visualize racial inequities and
find solutions to personal and political problems” (p. 131). In
light of this, developmental reading courses and the textbooks that
drive them should address race and racism as they are central to the
identities and experiences of African American students (Carter, 2005;
Gay, 2000; Hale, 2001; Patton et al., 2007).
Purpose and Research Questions
The purpose of this study is to analyze how developmental reading
courses represent and frame the impact of race on the life experiences
of African Americans. As argued in the research literature, it is
critical for developmental reading courses to adequately reflect the
experiences of African Americans as a means to engage these students and
heighten their persistence and ultimate success in the collegiate
experience. Thus, race, racism, and racial identity have a fundamental
impact on the life experiences of African Americans and should,
therefore, be addressed in developmental reading coursework.
Developmental reading textbooks are perhaps the most influential
determinants of the instructional practices used in developmental
reading courses (Wood, 2003).
Publishers of textbooks strongly encourage instructors to organize
their courses around their content. At the same time, instructors rely
heavily on these textbooks “as resources and references to convey
knowledge and information to their students” (
in the Bible, place, perhaps close to Bethel, near which Samuel set up the stone Ebenezer.
, 2002, p. 69).
In essence, the curricula and instruction in most developmental reading
classrooms is dependent upon what material appears in the course
textbook (Shen, 2002; Wood, 2003). Thus, these textbooks are a logical
for examining developmental reading course content.
The importance of interrogating textbook content, specifically as
it relates to African American students, is supported by Gay (2000), who
points out that “the largely uncontested authority and
pervasiveness of textbooks are important reasons why understanding their
treatment of ethnic and cultural diversity and their effects on student
learning is essential” (p. 113). Grounded in Critical Race Theory,
I conducted a qualitative content analysis of the reading selections
related to African Americans in a representative sample of five of the
most recently published, top-selling developmental reading textbooks.
The specific research question that guided this research is How do the
reading selections in developmental reading textbooks represent and
frame the impact of race on the life experiences of African Americans?
Theoretical Framework and Positionality
Literacy researchers who adopt Critical Race Theory as an
analytical lens “challenge traditional theories that language and
literacy are neutral, objective, and color-blind” (Willis et al.,
2008, p. 36). Furthermore, literacy researchers using Critical Race
Theory acknowledge that “there can be no disinterested, objective,
and value-free definition of literacy” and that “the way
literacy is viewed and taught is always and inevitably ideological”
(Willis et al., 2008, p. 83). Methodologically, a study that is
conducted from a Critical Race Theory perspective
foregrounds race and racism in all aspects of the research process;
challenges the traditional research paradigm, texts, and theories used
to explain the experiences of
people of Color
; offers a liberatory or
transformative solution to racial, gender, and class subordination;
focuses on the racialized, gendered and classed experiences of students
of Color; uses an interdisciplinary knowledge base to better understand
the experiences of students of Color. (Willis et al., 2008, p. 57)
As a Critical Race Theory qualitative content analysis, this study
tr.v. scru·ti·nized, scru·ti·niz·ing, scru·ti·niz·es
To examine or observe with great care; inspect critically.
issues of inequality, to resist the reproduction of
oppressive ideology, and to make strides toward social change within the
contexts of developmental reading and higher education. Specifically,
Critical Race Theory is used as an analytical construct with which to
qualitatively analyze the reading selections related to African
Americans in developmental reading textbooks.
Milner (2007) posits that “researchers’ multiple and
varied positions, roles, and identities are intricately and
a. So intricate or entangled as to make escape impossible:
embedded in the process and outcomes of education research” (p.
389). This is particularly important to this study since
is subjective in nature, and the specific procedures used in
such a study are exclusively dependent on the subjective position of the
researcher. Furthermore, careful consideration of my personal stance and
position as a researcher is crucial since my study centralizes race,
racism, and racial identity. In such a case, Milner (2007) asserts that
“when researchers are not mindful of the enormous role of their own
and others’ racialized positionality and cultural ways of knowing,
the results can be dangerous to communities and individuals of
color” (p. 388).
I approach this study first and foremost as an African American. My
identity as an African American is central to my
n. In both senses also called Weltanschauung.
1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.
, and it
impacts how I move about in all areas of my life. At the heart of my
work as a developmental reading professor is my desire to cultivate
cultural consciousness amongst my students. An overwhelming majority of
my students are African American–mostly low-income, first-generation
college students. Through conversations with my students and in reading
their reflective writing assignments, I have realized that many of my
students consider themselves to be “outsiders” to the academy,
and they are very sensitive to the hurdles to their success as they
relate to race and racism. I work to address these issues by openly
sharing my experiences with education and life in general. I am open
about the injustices that I have had to encounter, but I emphasize my
resilience and the resilience of so many African Americans. I point out
to the students that they themselves are incredibly resilient. From
there, I strive to cultivate in them a more positive scholarly
identity–one where they see themselves as the competent, knowledgeable,
and capable individuals that I believe them to be.
Thus, this research study is one with which I am intimately
connected. This study is situated within the essence of who I am
personally and professionally. Teaching for me is a form of social
activism, and I engage daily in the struggle for a more just society. I
1. To steep or soak without boiling in order to extract soluble elements or active principles.
2. To introduce a solution into the body through a vein for therapeutic purposes.
criticality in both my theorizing about my students and
my curricular and instructional choices. At the center of my thinking
and teaching is a critical examination of the complex intersections of
race, identity, power, and education. To me, this is the only way to
truly educate students in such a way that will increase their success
and persistence and ultimately the quality of their lives beyond the
As previously mentioned, this study is a Critical Race Theory
qualitative content analysis of current, top-selling developmental
reading textbooks. Historically, content analysis was a purely
method used in the study of mass communications
(Krippendorf, 2004; White & Marsh, 2006). More recently, content
analysis has been employed by researchers in a variety of disciplines to
conduct qualitative as well as quantitative studies. White and Marsh
(2006) describe qualitative content analysis as a “highly flexible
research method” where the researcher “uses analytical
rules of inference
, to move from the text to the answers
to the research questions” (p. 27). Zhang and Wildemuth (2009)
explain that qualitative content analysis goes beyond merely counting
words or extracting objective content from texts. Rather, qualitative
content analysis “allows researchers to understand social reality
in a subjective but scientific manner” (p. 308).
Sampling and Sample Unit
There is a relatively large market for developmental reading
textbooks with well over 100 books currently in print. In addition,
there is considerable variety in the content of developmental reading
textbooks, including books that emphasize study skills and basic reading
strategies and traditional workbook-style texts that focus on discrete
skill practice drills. Sampling in qualitative content analysis is
1. Having or serving a purpose.
, theoretical and
the specific parameters of
the study (White & Marsh, 2006; Zhang & Wildemuth, 2009). Given
the depth of a qualitative content analysis and the time frame for this
study, it was important that I limit the sample to a reasonable size.
The critical nature of my study and the characteristics of the potential
textbooks were also taken into account when considering sampling.
Specifically, I decided to
tr.v. o·mit·ted, o·mit·ting, o·mits
1. To fail to include or mention; leave out:
a. To pass over; neglect.
workbook-style textbooks as the focus of
my analysis is on reading selections in developmental reading textbooks.
Workbook-style textbooks tend to only include very short reading
passages; thus, they do not offer the kinds of text that are most useful
for a critical study. I decided to construct a sample that would include
recent, top-selling developmental reading textbooks. This rationale for
selecting the most recently published (copyright dates between 2008 and
2011), top-selling textbooks is because they are most likely to reflect
the most current models of literacy instruction and the most likely to
be used in developmental reading courses.
The sampling universe of textbooks for this study was determined by
contacting three major publishers of developmental reading textbooks,
Pearson Higher Education, McGraw-Hill, and Wadsworth
Higher Education), and requesting copies of
their most recent, top-selling developmental reading textbooks. Based on
the information that I obtained from the publishers’
representatives, five textbooks make up the total sample for this study
(see appendix A). The sampling unit was limited to full-length reading
selections (all of which were comprised of five or more paragraphs) that
deal explicitly or implicitly with issues related to African Americans,
and did not include the short, isolated paragraphs typically found in
practice exercises. There were no limitations on the genre of the
reading selections, and as a result, I included autobiographical essays,
fiction, and excerpts from actual content area textbook chapters.
To determine which reading passages fit the criteria for my sample,
I skimmed every full-length reading selection in the five textbooks to
make note of those selections that deal with issues related to African
Americans. Some selections deal explicitly with the experiences of
African Americans (e.g., in their titles). Other reading selections were
not as explicit, and in those cases, I read those more closely to
determine their relevance to my study. In doing so, I realized that many
of the readings discussed the experiences of African Americans more
subtly. Therefore, I chose to include reading passages that deal with
African Americans both explicitly and implicitly in the sample. Within
the five developmental reading textbooks, there were a total of 166
full-length reading selections. Of the 166 full-length passages, 19
implicitly or explicitly discussed issues related to African Americans
(see appendix B). These 19 passages constituted my sampling unit (see
To determine how developmental reading textbooks represent and
frame the impact of race on the life experiences of African Americans, I
used the constant comparative method, as advocated by Zhang and
Wildemuth (2009). They explain that the constant comparative method was
originally developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) for research using a
grounded theory approach; however, this method is now widely used as a
method of qualitative data analysis (Zhang & Wildemuth, 2009). White
and Marsh (2006) describe the constant comparative method in qualitative
content analysis as one where the researcher reads through the
documents, makes note of key phrases and segments that correspond with
the research questions, identifies others that seem important but that
are unexpected, and recursively compares the categories and constructs
with other data and rereading of the same documents.
Open coding. The first step of data analysis was open coding, which
included reading and rereading the reading selections that deal with
African Americans with the purpose of noting ideas related to race that
emerged from the texts. During open coding, I generated a list of codes
to represent race-related ideas from the textbook reading selections.
. Next, I engaged in axial coding, during which I
compared the codes from the open coding list to determine any
relationships between them. With this information, I created a
preliminary coding map in which I arranged the related themes and the
specific codes that are related to each theme. For example, codes such
as Black-White distrust, White flight, post-racial society, and
opposition to Whites were organized under the larger theme of
Selective coding. Finally, I engaged in selective coding, which
entailed using my preliminary coding map, rereading each reading
selection and assigning my previously generated codes to the relevant
passages of the text. This was a
process during which I
compared instances of my initial codes and themes between the various
texts and within each text. Consequently, I refined my codes and themes,
omitting those codes and themes that were not as applicable to my
research question, combining categories and codes, and adding new ones
that emerged from comparing instances between and within each text. Once
the final codes were assigned to each of the reading selections, I
tallied the frequencies of the instances in which each of the codes and
1. Forming an arch overhead or above:
2. Extending over or throughout:
themes appeared in the texts. The themes that were
most frequent in the reading selections became the core themes. I
further examined the core themes within the reading selections and
generated larger analytic themes. These analytic themes take into
account Critical Race Theory and provide the analytic lens through which
I reconstruct the meanings found in the data.
Lincoln and Guba (1985) provide four criteria for evaluating
interpretive research: credibility, transferability, dependability, and
confirmability. In conducting my study, I took several steps to meet
Lincoln and Guba’s (1985) four criteria outlined above. To meet
credibility and transferability, I conducted an in-depth analysis of
several textbooks, written by multiple authors and published by multiple
publishers. Although my analysis focused on the full-length reading
selection in each textbook, I also examined several other aspects of the
textbooks (front matter, teacher tips, and student activities) to gain
an accurate understanding of the texts’ range of material. In
addition, to ensure dependability and confirmability, I engaged in a
recursive process of reading and rereading through that data to refine
and revise my interpretations of the data. Furthermore, to ensure
validity and truth value of my study, I situated my findings within a
Critical Race Theory paradigm as well as provided thick (in-depth and
very detailed) descriptions of the reading selections in the textbooks
and my interpretations of them.
To further ensure the trustworthiness of my study, I cross-checked
my coding and analysis with an independent researcher–a fellow doctoral
student with knowledge of Critical Race Theory, qualitative content
analysis, and experience teaching developmental reading to African
American students. I provided the independent researcher with my
research question and a sample of 10 reading selections (two selections
from each of the five textbooks from my study) and asked her to engage
in a two-tiered coding process. For five of the selections, she simply
read through each of them and generated possible codes based on the
research question for my study. We then discussed her codes, and I made
modifications to my codes as necessary, based on her suggestions and
critiques. For the remaining five reading selections, she used a coding
map that I had created using the codes I generated during axial coding.
As she read through these five selections, she assigned codes from my
coding map to the sections of the text that she interpreted as relevant
to the codes. Again, we discussed her assignment of codes, and I
modified my coding as necessary. This process was repeated until there
was 100% agreement between the independent researcher and me. In most
cases, any variance in our assignment of codes was purely semantic–for
example she may have used the term ”
,” while I
used the term “White advantage” (see appendix D for the final
In examining how the textbooks represent and frame the racialized
experiences of African Americans, I found that overall the developmental
reading textbooks in this study appear to provide minimal representation
of African Americans in the full-length reading selections included in
the textbooks. As mentioned above in the section on sampling, within the
five textbooks included in this study, there are a total of 166
full-length reading selections. Of the 166 passages, only 19 passages
implicitly or explicitly discuss the life experiences of African
Americans. This alone may be problematic for African American students
enrolled in developmental reading courses. While developmental reading
textbooks need not focus exclusively on African Americans, it is crucial
to the success of African American students that these texts adequately
represent their experiences (Delpit, 2006; Gay, 2000; Hale, 2001;
Beyond adequately representing African Americans in textbooks,
publishers must also accurately depict the lived experiences of African
Americans–especially as they relate to the impact of race. My analysis
of the reading selections related to African Americans in these
textbooks yielded five themes related to race: Black/White comparisons,
Black-White relations, African American cultural values, African
American psychological consciousness, and
Racial disparity Social medicine, public health
A disparity in opportunity for socioeconomic advancement or access to goods and services based solely on race. See Women and health.
examining the frequency of the instances of these themes and the
research question for this study, the themes of racial inequality and
Black-White relations emerged as most related to my research question
and most frequent in my content analysis of the reading selections
related to African Americans included in these books. Thus, racial
inequality and Black-White relations serve as the core themes with which
I developed analytic themes for discussing the findings of this study. I
discuss both of these core themes and their frequency and give typical
examples of how they are represented and framed in the reading
Racial inequality emerged as the overarching theme related to
African Americans and their experiences. I found 36 instances of this
theme in all five of the developmental reading textbooks combined, and
this theme encompasses the issues of racism, discrimination, prejudice,
and racial oppression that, both historically and in the present, have
plagued the lives of African Americans. Furthermore, as it is framed in
some of the textbooks I consider in this study, the theme of racial
inequality also incorporates incidents of overcoming racism and
discrimination, race-based legislation such as
in the United States, programs to overcome the effects of past societal discrimination by allocating jobs and resources to members of specific groups, such as minorities and women.
the many political and legislative triumphs of African Americans in
their struggle for equality.
My analysis of the developmental reading textbooks showed that
there was no difference in their representations of this theme. All of
the textbooks examine the complexity of racial inequality in U.S.
society, past and present, and they discuss the implications of racial
inequality for African Americans and for broader society as well. In
addition, all of the textbooks examine the struggle for equality, not
just the experience of inequality–that is, the progress resulting from
the struggle is acknowledged, but the ongoing nature of the struggle is
Nevertheless, although all of the textbooks generally provide
comparable representation of racial inequality for African Americans,
some reading selections in the textbooks provide a more
Performed with haste and scant attention to detail:
[Late Latin curs
of this theme. In this cursory approach, racial inequality is framed
from a historical perspective with little attention paid to contemporary
relevance, thereby suggesting that the fight for racial equality as a
battle has already been won and may not be an equally valid and current
concern, which gives an unrealistic portrayal of racial inequality in
contemporary U.S. society. In addition, the reading selections that take
a more cursory approach to racial inequality tend to mention this theme
implicitly, discussing examples of racial inequality as anecdotes or as
strategies for making a larger point.
An example of a cursory approach to racial inequality is seen in a
reading selection titled “Women in History,” written by
Leonard Pitt in Bridging the Gap (Smith & Morris, 2011). In this
selection, Pitt describes the variety of roles that women played during
the Civil War and he makes a reference to racial inequality when he
see ballot; election; franchise; voting; woman suffrage.
. He states,
[O]nce abolition was finally assured in 1865, most feminists felt
certain that suffrage would follow quickly. They believed that women had
earned the vote by their patriotic wartime efforts. Besides, it appeared
certain that black men would soon be allowed to vote. And once black men
had the ballot in hand, how could anyone justify keeping it from white
women–or black women? (Smith & Morris, 2011, p. 260)
In this example, Pitt directly references the fact that African
Americans were denied basic rights such as voting (“it appeared
certain that black men would soon be allowed to vote”). In the
reading selection, the author also alludes to the struggle of African
Americans to gain their freedom from slavery and to be granted full
rights as U.S. citizens. In taking a historical approach in framing the
issue of racial inequality, Pitt presents the African American struggle
for equality as an issue of the past that has been largely resolved
through abolition and the
intr.v. im·pend·ed, im·pend·ing, im·pends
1. To be about to occur:
extension of the right to vote for
Black men. Discussion of racial inequality in this selection is left
implicit rather than made explicit, as the example of racial inequality
is used to support the author’s primary focus on the struggle that
women had to endure to gain equal rights in American society and are not
presented as issues for discussion and study in their own right. Thus,
the issue of racial inequality could easily be overlooked.
Another example of a cursory framing of racial inequality is seen
in The Art of Critical Reading (Mather & McCarthy, 2009). In a
selection titled “Commencement Address,” written by Marian
Wright Edelman, the author gives an
, brief narrative of a particular incident. An anecdote differs from a short story in that it is unified in time and space, is uncomplicated, and deals with a single episode.
see Truth, Sojourner.
describes Truth as an ”
slave woman who could not read or
write, but she could not stand second-class treatment of women and she
hated slavery” (Mather & McCarthy, 2009, p. 22). In this
quotation, the author implicitly acknowledges that racial inequality was
an issue in American society, and the issue of gender inequality is
mentioned along with racial inequality. Nevertheless, much like the
reading selection “Women in History,” by Pitt in Bridging the
Gap, this passage does not explicitly refer to the complexity of racial
inequality and its impact on contemporary society. Although
Edelman’s primary point on perseverance in striving for a better,
more equal U.S. is an important one to make, the issues of racial
inequality, its social contexts, and its lingering effects are glossed
over in such a way that they could be easily ignored or
v. o·ver·sim·pli·fied, o·ver·sim·pli·fy·ing, o·ver·sim·pli·fies
To simplify to the point of causing misrepresentation, misconception, or error.
In contrast, in the comprehensive approach, racial inequality is
examined more thoroughly and is framed as both historically and
contemporarily significant. Such reading selections generally discuss
the impact of racial inequality on various aspects of life chances and
life experiences at both individual and societal levels. Moreover, the
comprehensive approach emphasizes the struggle for racial
equality–acknowledging the triumphs, but also honing in on the fact
that the struggle continues in the present day.
A prime example of a comprehensive framing of racial inequality is
seen in a reading selection titled “Race,” by Barack Obama.
This selection appears in Developing Critical Reading Skills (Spears,
2009). In this selection, Obama discusses his thoughts on
the relations between members of two or more races within a single community
in the U.S. In a personal example, Obama shares his experiences as a
Black man in a racially unequal society. He states,
I can recite the usual
[Gr.,=prayer], solemn prayer characterized by varying petitions with set responses. The term is mainly used for Christian forms. Litanies were developed in Christendom for use in processions.
of petty slights that during my
forty-five years have been directed my way: security guards tailing me
as I shop in
, white couples who toss me their keys as
I stand outside a restaurant waiting for the valet, police cars pulling
me over for no apparent reason. I know what it is like to have people
tell me I can’t do something because of my color, and I know the
bitter swill of swallowed back anger. (Spears, 2009, p. 450)
In this quotation, Obama offers a tangible example of the racial
inequality that lingers in U.S. society and how it affects the daily
life experiences of African Americans (“security guards tailing me
as I shop in department stores,” “white couples who toss me
their keys as I stand outside a restaurant waiting for the valet,”
“police cars pulling me over for no apparent reason”). This
example is particularly compelling, coming from a man who is the first
African American president of the
officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world’s third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.
. Some would consider his
success as evidence of a post-racial American society, in which,
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of:
2. In keeping with:
(2009), race no longer matters and racial inequality
has been overcome. However, this account of Obama’s experiences
with racial inequality illustrates that these issues are still very much
a reality for African Americans–successful or not.
Another example of a comprehensive framing of racial inequality is
seen in Opening Doors (
n. 1. (Biology) a cobwebby remnant of the partial veil which in some mature mushrooms hang from the edges of the cap.
& Elder, 2011), in a reading
selection titled “The Age of
” written by
. While this selection is primarily focused on the events of
September 11, 2001, and their root causes, there is some discussion of
social class among African Americans. In this selection, Brinkley
discusses the effects of the Civil Rights Movement on the economic
standing of African Americans:
There were few areas of American life from which blacks were any
longer entirely excluded. Middle-class blacks, in other words, had
realized great gains from the legislation of the 1960s, from the
changing national mood on race, from the creation of controversial
affirmative action programs and from their own strenuous efforts.
(Cortina & Elder, 2011, p. 743)
Inherent in this quotation is the idea that African Americans have
not always been treated as equal in U.S. society but have made gains in
their social standing through their struggle for equality (“There
were few areas of American life from which blacks were any longer
entirely excluded.”). While Brinkley clearly celebrates this
triumph for Blacks, he is careful to illuminate the fact that the
struggle for equality for African Americans is not an issue of the past.
He goes on to explain that many African Americans continue to be
“disadvantaged by many factors in the changing social and economic
climate–among them a growing impatience with affirmative action and
other programs designed to advance their fortunes” (Cortina &
Elder, 2011, p. 743). Thus, this reading selection frames the issue of
racial inequality as an ongoing struggle: there has been some progress,
but ultimately, the struggle continues.
The second theme, with a total of 49 instances, which arose during
my analysis of the five developmental reading textbooks, is Black-White
relations. This theme encompasses issues related to the interactions
between African Americans and White Americans as they relate to racial
inequality. As examined in the previous theme, there is a long-standing
history of racial inequality in U.S. society. At the
[Lat.,=cross], small but brilliant southern constellation whose four most prominent members form a Latin cross, the famous Southern Cross.
inequality are assumptions of White superiority and Black inferiority
that are manifested through White privilege and domination along with
the subordination and oppression of Blacks. Consequently, racial
inequality and the struggle for equality centers on the relationship
between African Americans and White Americans.
In examining how the reading selections in the developmental
reading textbooks represent issues pertaining to Black-White relations,
there are no noteworthy differences between the books. For the most part
all of the textbooks deal with similar issues related to Black-White
interactions (e.g., the disparity in power between these two races). The
reading selections in all of the textbooks discuss the struggle between
Blacks and Whites as being the direct result of power differentials, and
they explore Black-White relations from historical and more contemporary
The fundamental difference between some of the developmental
reading textbooks is in how they frame these issues of Black-White
relations. My analysis revealed that the selections in Opening Doors and
Bridging the Gap tend to frame interactions between African Americans
and White Americans in relatively uncharitable terms, by focusing
overwhelmingly on past and present Black-White conflict and situations
in which Blacks continue to be
tr.v. op·pressed, op·press·ing, op·press·es
1. To keep down by severe and unjust use of force or authority:
and by offering little optimism
in the future of Black-White relations.
For example, Opening Doors (Cortina & Elder, 2011) features a
selection titled “African Americans: The Struggle for
Equality,” written by Thomas Patterson. This reading selection
gives a detailed description of the history and current state of
Black-White relations in the U.S. This selection portrays Whites as
actively and intentionally resistant to equal opportunities for African
Americans. Patterson asserts that “of all America’s problems,
none has been as persistent as the white race’s unwillingness to
yield a fair share of society’s benefits to members of the black
race” (Cortina & Elder, 2011, p. 163). Patterson goes on to
describe the extent of White resistance through anti-Black laws and
politics such as the
Plessy v. Ferguson
case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896. The court upheld an 1890 Louisiana statute mandating racially segregated but equal railroad carriages, ruling that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth amendment to the U.S.
(1896) Supreme Court decision
that “became a justification for the separate and unequal treatment
of African Americans” (p. 164). Similarly, Patterson discusses
White opposition to the Brown ruling, which made school-based
illegal. In what they called the Southern Manifesto, several
Southern congressmen “urged their state governments to resist
forced integration by any lawful means” (p. 164).
This reading selection further characterizes White resistance by
citing instances of physical violence against African Americans who
pursued equal rights. For example, Patterson describes how Dr. King and
his followers were attacked by the Birmingham police using dogs, cattle
prods, and fire hoses and how two civil rights workers were murdered
voter registration drive
; both events
demonstrate the extent to which some Whites were willing to go to block
racial equality. The author ends this selection by making explicit that
the power struggle between Blacks and Whites is far from over:
“Although the most significant progress in history toward the legal
equality of all Americans occurred during the 1960’s, Dr.
King’s dream of a color-blind society has remained elusive”
(Cortina & Elder, 2011, p. 166).
Another example is seen in Bridging the Gap (Smith & Morris,
2011) in Pitt’s “Women in History.” In this selection,
the author describes the notion of Blacks and Whites collaborating
during times of crisis. During the Civil War, Pitt explains that
“North and South, black and white, many women served as nurses,
some as spies and even as soldiers” (Smith & Morris, 2011, p.
259). This quotation portrays a laying aside of racial and other
differences to work toward a common goal.
this example is
the idea that in the absence of crisis, African Americans and White
Americans collaborate very little, if at all. In addition, the above
quotation gives some indication of the tenuous and often volatile
relationship between these two races.
This uncharitable portrayal of Black-White relations is vastly
different from the other three developmental textbooks (Developing
Critical Reading Skills, Mindscapes, and The Art of Critical Reading),
which tend to frame the interactions between Blacks and Whites with
hopefulness for the future. The reading selections in these textbooks
generally recognize that, historically and currently, there is a
disparity and struggle for power between these two races, but they offer
some resolution to this conflict and encourage readers to move toward a
future of Black-White reconciliation.
This trend of acknowledging the unpleasant while focusing on the
positive is exemplified in Mindscapes (Carter, 2011), which includes a
selection titled “Racial Injustice,” by Marvin Perry, J. Wayne
Baker, and Pamela Hollinger. Specifically, this selection discusses how
the “closing decades of the twentieth century were marked by
unprecedented achievement of African American women writers who overcame
racial discrimination to become award-winning poets, novelists,
screenplay writers and governmental emissaries” (Carter, 2011, p.
442). These writers, including
unique in that they used their writing to expose the racial injustice
that African Americans continue to face. These writers also raised
awareness of African American cultural influence in America and received
mainstream acceptance (in the form of Pulitzer and
academic appointments, honors and awards, and so forth), which speaks to
Black-White reconciliation. This reading presents the mainstream
acceptance of these authors as significant because of their emphasis on
racial equality for African Americans. Being granted such prestigious
mainstream honors is not only an acknowledgement of their talents as
writers but also an acceptance of African Americans and their
experiences by White Americans.
In Developing Critical Reading Skills (Spears, 2009), the notion of
reconciliation between Blacks and Whites is further exemplified in the
passage titled “Race.” In this passage the author, Barack
Obama, speaks of a future nation that embraces and appreciates
individuals from all races and cultures. He envisions a U.S. that is
“finally freed from the past of
and slavery, Japanese
in international law, detention of the nationals or property of an enemy or a belligerent. A belligerent will intern enemy merchant ships or take them as prize, and a neutral should intern both belligerent ships that fail to leave its ports within a
camps and Mexican braceros, work-place tensions and cultural
conflict” (as cited in Spears, 2009, p. 449). Still, Obama is very
clear that this ideal is far from realized. He is very explicit in
discussing the discrepancy between a post-racial ideal and current
reality when he asserts,
to think clearly about race, then requires us to see the world on a
split screen–to maintain in our sights the kind of America that we want
while looking squarely at America as it is, to acknowledge the sins of
our past and the challenges of the present without becoming trapped in
cynicism and despair. (as cited in Spears, 2009, p. 451)
In this quotation and throughout the selection, Obama describes the
struggle for racial equality–both past and present–and urges readers
not to turn a blind eye to the racial hostility that still exists.
It is evident that this reading passage does not simply embrace a
post-racial view of U.S. society (such that issues of race and racism
are no longer factors with which we must contend; Lum, 2009). Obama does
not ignore the legacy and current reality of racial tension and
inequality; nevertheless, he implores readers to take responsibility to
make the dream of a multi-racial worldview a reality in the U.S. In
other words, unlike the selections in the standard textbooks, this
passage does not leave readers with merely a depressing and defeated
look at Black-White relations. Instead, Obama presents the potential for
Black-White relations in which the tension and inequality of the past do
not have to dictate the future.
This study illuminates three major findings regarding how this
sample of five of the most-recent, top-selling developmental reading
textbooks represent and frame the impact of race on the life experiences
of African Americans:
* Very few reading selections related to African Americans are
included in the textbooks; however, racial inequality and Black-White
relations are discussed as major themes in the life experiences of
* Racial inequality is framed through either a comprehensive or
* Black-White relations are framed with either a focus on past/
present tension or future reconciliation.
Each of these three findings has important implications for
developmental reading coursework and the engagement and success of
African American developmental reading students.
Limited Representation of African Americans
The need for course content that is relevant, responsive, and
Taking into consideration or account; including.
the social, cultural, historical, and political contexts of
students is well-established in the research literature (Degener, 2001;
Delpit, 2006; Freire, 1970, 1991; Gay, 2000; Hale, 2001; Murrell, 2002;
Paulson & Armstrong, 2010). Representative course materials are
particularly salient for the engagement and success of African American
students as they are forging a positive identity within a racially
hostile educational system and society (Burt & Halpin, 1998;
Kalsner, 1992; Moore, 2001; Smedley, 2008; Spencer, 1999; Stevenson
& Arrington, 2009; Ward, 2000). The limited attention that the
developmental reading textbooks in this study devote to the experiences
of African Americans is highly problematic for African American
students, who are most likely to enroll in developmental reading
coursework, along with developmental reading instructors who are seeking
to serve the needs of these students (Atwell et al., 2006; Delpit, 2006;
Gay, 2000; Hale, 2001; Kinzie et al., 2008; Willis, 2008).
Specifically, the lack of representation in these textbooks
reinforces the subordination of African Americans in education and in
larger society–thus, potentially impeding the engagement and success of
African American students in developmental reading courses. Furthermore,
the lack of representative textbook content makes it necessary for
developmental reading instructors to seek out supplemental reading
material in order to address the needs of African American students in
While some instructors willingly go the extra mile to accomplish
this task, many instructors are incapable or unwilling to devote the
time and energy to locating and incorporating supplementary materials
related to African Americans in their courses. Consequently, the
curricular needs of African American students in developmental reading
courses go unmet.
Framing Racial Inequality: Cursory versus Comprehensive Approaches
While the number of passages related to African Americans and their
experiences in the developmental reading textbooks that I analyzed in my
study is relatively small compared to the total number of reading
selections included in the books, the reading selections cover important
themes related to African Americans and their experiences–namely racial
inequality and Black-White relations. The first theme, racial
inequality, covers issues of racism, discrimination, prejudice, and
racial oppression. All of the textbooks included in this study discuss
these issues, but as illustrated in the findings of this study, some of
the reading selections frame racial inequality in a cursory manner and
other reading selections frame racial inequality in a more comprehensive
manner. Specifically, the cursory approach presents racial inequality as
a historically significant issue with little to no relevance in modern
society. On the other hand, the comprehensive approach contends that
racial inequality for African Americans is an issue that is both
historically and contemporarily relevant. Each approach to framing
racial inequality has a distinct impact on engagement and success
amongst African American developmental reading students.
Cursory approach. As previously mentioned, the cursory approach to
racial inequality presents an unrealistic portrayal of how this issue
plays out in contemporary U.S. society. According to Critical Race
Theory, racism is endemic to American society and is at the root of all
present-day manifestations of racial inequality (Jennings & Lynn,
2005; Lynn & Parker, 2006; Ryan & Dixson, 2006). In light of
this, the cursory approach to racial inequality is dangerously
inaccurate. Reading selections that deny or diminish the racial
inequality that is germane to African American students’ lived
experiences prohibit the students from critically examining and
developing strategies for combating the negative impact of racism in
their academic and personal lives. Ignoring or oversimplifying racial
inequality is potentially damaging to the identities, academic
engagement, and ultimately, the academic success of African American
students (Burt & Halpin, 1998; Kalsner, 1992; Moore, 2001; Smedley,
2008; Spencer, 1999; Stevenson & Arrington, 2009; Ward, 2000).
Comprehensive approach. From a theoretical and
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of pedagogy.
2. Characterized by pedantic formality:
standpoint, the comprehensive framing of racial inequality, on the other
hand, is necessary when teaching African American students. The benefits
of a comprehensive approach, in which racial inequality is framed as a
relevant struggle in the daily lives of African Americans, are supported
by Critical Race Theory (Jennings & Lynn, 2005; Ryan & Dixson,
2006). In other words, there can be no adequate and accurate discussion
of the experiences of African Americans without fully examining the
impact of race and racism. The comprehensive approach to racial
inequality found in many of the textbook reading selections is also
supported by researchers who assert that literacy and learning must be
situated in the historical, political, social, and cultural contexts of
the students (Delpit, 2006; Freire, 1970, 1991; Gay, 2000; Hale, 2001;
Paulson & Armstrong, 2010; Williams, 2008, 2009;). In doing so,
literacy and learning help students become “critically
conscious” of their experiences within the larger society (Degener,
2001; Freire, 1970, 1991). Reading selections that use a comprehensive
framing of racial inequality offer African American students an
the complexity and implications of racism and
v. strat·e·gized, strat·e·giz·ing, strat·e·giz·es
To plan a strategy for (a business or financial venture, for example).
ways to overcome this barrier to their success (Gay, 2000).
Framing Black-White Relations: Past and Present Tensions versus
The second theme, Black-White relations, examines the interactions
between African Americans and White Americans as they relate to racial
inequality. Although all of the textbooks included in this study
acknowledge the past and present tensions between these two groups, some
of the textbooks frame Black-White relations through a pessimistic lens
focused solely on the existing tensions and other textbooks use a more
positive framing that focuses on the potential for reconciliation. There
are benefits and drawbacks to both methods for framing Black-White
relations as it relates to engagement and success among African American
developmental reading students.
Past and present tensions. The textbook reading selections that
focus exclusively on the Black-White power struggle with an explicit
emphasis on White power, privilege, and dominance can be interpreted as
negative, gloomy, and
Acceptance of or resignation to the prospect of defeat.
de·featist adj. & n.
. African American students who encounter
these reading passages may develop a sense of powerlessness and despair.
On the other hand, several researchers argue that foregrounding issues
of racism, dominance, and oppression is important to the engagement and
socialization of these students (Jennings & Lynn, 2005; Lynn &
Parker, 2006; Moore, 2001; Patton et al., 2007). In other words, by
being upfront about the harsh realities of racial hostility in U.S.
Represented or appearing as such; ostensive:
negative reading passages in the textbooks may
be beneficial to African American students. The logic behind such
reasoning is that these students are faced with racial issues on a daily
basis, whether or not they are consciously aware of them. If African
American students are to effectively navigate academia as a
A small, representative system having analogies to a larger system in constitution, configuration, or development:
larger society, they have to be conscious of sociopolitical barriers to
their success. Thus, the seeming pessimism in some of the textbook
reading selections is both warranted and necessary. Nevertheless, this
approach may also fail to provide such students with information on how
to overcome, and ultimately destroy, racial barriers. Being exposed only
to the negative side of Black-White relations may leave African American
students at increased risk for developing an external locus of control
and/or helpless orientation, such that they underestimate their ability
to influence their outcomes while overestimating the power of others
(Kalsner, 1992; Moore, 2001). This psychological state often leads to
decreased academic motivation, involvement, success, and ultimately
attrition from college (Kalsner, 1992; Moore, 2001).
Future reconciliation. In comparison, some readers may consider the
future-focused, solution-centered approach to Black-White relations that
characterizes other reading selections in the developmental reading
textbooks as being too rosy and out of touch with reality. The ideal of
a post-racial society can be construed as displaying ignorance to issues
of privilege, dominance, and oppression that historically and currently
dictate much of the interactions between African Americans and White
Americans. African American students who encounter these passages could
infer that issues of race and racism are no longer salient in U.S.
society, which could be detrimental to their success, as they will
undoubtedly face instances of racism and discrimination in academia and
However, the reading selections that focus on future reconciliation
in no way ignore the harsh past and present realities of Black-White
relations. These reading selections fully acknowledge issues of
privilege, power, and oppression, but they do so in a way that also
identifies ways to envision the potential for eradicating these problems
by looking toward reconciliation and equality. This perspective is
supported by researchers who advocate a dual approach to socializing
African American students (Kalsner, 1992; Stevenson & Arrington,
2009; Ward, 2000). In this dual approach, African American students are
made aware not only of the potential and reality of racism and
discrimination that exist in our society, but also of the potential for
overcoming and abolishing these barriers. By being made aware of the
potential for success as well as the barriers to success, these students
may be more likely to develop a mastery orientation, such that they
perceive themselves as having the power and ability to succeed.
According to attribution theory, students with a mastery orientation are
more likely to be motivated to
intr.v. per·se·vered, per·se·ver·ing, per·se·veres
To persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.
in the face of difficulty
(Kalsner, 1992; Moore, 2001). Furthermore, a cautiously
1. One who usually expects a favorable outcome.
2. A believer in philosophical optimism.
future-focused approach to Black-White relations is potentially more
likely to foster a dual control orientation within African American
students. Students with a dual control orientation report increased
motivation and achievement, as they are aware of external,
sociopolitical barriers to their success but still have confidence in
their abilities to overcome and eliminate them (Kalsner, 1992; Moore,
2001; Stevenson & Arrington, 2009; Ward, 2000). These bodies of
research evidence suggest that the positive framing of Black-White
relations found in some of the reading selections may be more productive
for African American students, as they navigate life in academia and in
the larger society.
Conclusions and Recommendations
As demonstrated in the research literature and the discussion of
the implications of the findings of this study, developmental reading
textbook content that deals with issues related to race sets the stage
for increased engagement among African American students in
developmental reading coursework. Using such reading selections to
tr.v. con·tex·tu·al·ized, con·tex·tu·al·iz·ing, con·tex·tu·al·iz·es
To place (a word or idea, for example) in a particular context.
reading skill development may prove to be more relevant,
meaningful, and instructionally effective for these students.
Developmental reading instruction that also helps these students
tr.v. sit·u·at·ed, sit·u·at·ing, sit·u·ates
1. To place in a certain spot or position; locate.
2. To place under particular circumstances or in a given condition.
their experiences within the larger social, cultural, historical, and
political context may enhance African American students’ reading
skills while promoting their scholarly engagement in ways that will
foster their motivation to
In light of the findings of this study and their implications for
engagement and success among African American students, there are
several recommendations for developmental reading professionals. First,
it is paramount that developmental reading instructors and
administrators be mindful of the racialized experiences of African
Americans and how these experiences influence academic engagement and
success among African American students. Meeting the needs of African
American students in developmental reading courses, especially as they
relate to race, racism, and racial identity, must be made a curricular
and pedagogical priority. Along with this shift in priorities, it is
imperative that developmental reading instructors and administrators
carefully review and select course textbooks–paying close attention to
how these textbooks represent and frame the impact of race on life
experiences of African Americans. The analysis of the most recent,
top-selling textbooks in this study shed light on the current
deficiencies of developmental reading textbooks. If these deficiencies
are to be remedied, developmental reading professionals must demand that
publishing companies increase the availability of textbooks that
adequately and accurately represent African Americans. Until such a time
as these textbooks become available, developmental reading instructors
and administrators must make a commitment to locating and including
supplementary reading materials that are reflective of African American
students in developmental reading courses.
Finally, this study focused solely on developmental reading
textbook content and found several instances of content that could be
useful in increasing African American student engagement. Nevertheless,
Banks (1996) asserts that content integration is merely the first step
in making curriculum and instruction more conducive to the engagement
and success of students within a multicultural education framework. The
instructional process through which the students interact with the
content is further essential. Consequently, although the content of the
textbooks is a significant starting point, the manner in which the
students engage the content is also a critical consideration. Though
there are some research studies that examine critical approaches to
developmental reading instruction (Falk-Ross, 2002; Lesley, 2001;
Paulson & Armstrong, 2010; Williams, 2008, 2009), further studies on
Critical Race Theory approaches to literacy instruction in these courses
Appendix A Sample of Developmental Reading Textbooks Title Author(s) Date Publisher Bridging the Gap Smith & Morris 2011 Pearson Higher Education Opening Doors Cortina & Elder 2011 McGraw-Hill Mindscapes: Critical Carter 2011 Wadsworth Reading Skills and Cengage Strategies Developing Critical Spears 2009 McGraw-Hill Reading Skills The Art of Critical Mather & McCarthy 2009 McGraw-Hill Reading Appendix B General Characteristics of Reading Selections from the Five Textbooks Passages Full-Length Related Reading to African Title, Date, and Author Selections Americans Bridging the Gap, 2011, Smith and Morris 27 2 (7%) Opening Doors, 2011, Cortina and Elder 29 6 (21%) Mindscapes: Critical Reading Skills and 28 6 (21%) Strategies, 2011, Carter The Art of Critical Reading, 2009, Mather 57 3 (5%) and McCarthy Developing Critical Reading Skills, 2009, 25 2 (8%) Spears Total 166 19 (11%) Appendix C Reading Selections from the Developmental Reading Textbooks Reading Selection Author(s) Textbook "The First Day" E. P. Jones Developing Critical "Race" from the Audacity B. Obama Reading Skills of Hope "Black Men and Public B. Staples The Art Space" of Critical "Commencement Address" M. W. Edelman Reading "Teachers, Schools and M. Sadker and D. Sadker Society" "Get In, Show Up, Drop A. Kingsbury Mindscapes: Out" Critical "Racial Injustice" M. Perry, J. W. Baker, Reading Skills P. P. Hollinger and Strategies "Equity and Educational G. Huerta Practice" "Diversity and Cultural T. K. Gamble and Contacts: Interpreting M. W Gamble Through Different I's" "Organized Crime--American No Author Listed Mafia" "World War I and Its M. Perry, J. W. Baker, Aftermath: The Lost P. P. Hollinger Generation and the Jazz Age" "Cultural Diversity: D. H. Olsen and Opening Family Strengths and J. DeFrain Doors Challenges" "African Americans: T. E. Patterson The Struggle for Equality" "Poverty in America and T. E. Patterson Improving Social Welfare through Public Education" "The Development of Rock R. Kamien Music in American Society" A. Brinkley "The Age of Globalization" A. Haley and Malcolm X "Saved" "Women in History" L. Pitt Bridging the Gap "Madame C. J. Walker" B. C. Bigelow
Coding Map for Reading Selections
Themes Related to Race:
* Black-White Comparisons
–% of population
–% income level
–differences in body language cues
* Black-White Relations
–distrust of whites
–whites circumventing equal opportunity laws
–white exploitation of black poverty
–sin of slavery
–discrepancy between relational ideal and reality
tr.v. en·slaved, en·slav·ing, en·slaves
To make into or as if into a slave.
–being black in white America
–white resistance to black equality
–opposition to whites
–whites as enemies
–white-black collaboration in crises
–anti-black politics and laws
–negative media campaigns
–physical violence against blacks
* African American Cultural Values
–artistic expression and style
–distinct cultural identity
A set of values based on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence.
a belief in the moral value of work
–education highly valued
–strong achievement motivation
* African American Psychological Consciousness
–wounds of segregation
–“the African American experience”
–trials of black
–negative media messages
–racial identity and behavior.
–“the black psyche”
–being black in white America
–love/hate relationship with America
–feelings of powerlessness
–being judged as inferior
–victims of circumstance
–helplessness and despair
–pain of slavery
–coping with negative perceptions of black males
–psychological impact of stereotyping
* Racial Inequality
–legacy of racial injustice
–racism undercutting inequality
–stereotyping and discrimination
–struggle for racial equality
–some progress through struggle
–triumphs for blacks
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Jeanine L. Williams, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator
of Reading Acceleration Initiatives at The
Community College of
. Her research interests include integrated reading and
writing, acceleration in developmental education, critical literacy, and
other sociocultural approaches to postsecondary literacy instruction.