Now We Read, We See, We Speak compellingly captures eight women's progress toward empowerment through a Freirean-based literacy class in rural El Salvador and, in the process, provides telling lessons for literacy and adult educators around the world.
This book fills a real gap in the educational literature on critical theory and literacy teaching and learning. For the first time, we have a multi-layered description and analysis of a literacy class based on Freirean precepts and principles, through the perspective of "traditional" literacy theory and as interpreted through a literacy development lens. This allows us to consider how the adult students learned to read and write within a classroom context that embodies such Freirean precepts as dialogic teacher/student relations; respect for and knowledge of the learners' lives, language and culture; and intentionality about social-political change. Thus, this book is directed toward literacy practitioners, teachers, and researchers who may have heard or read about critical theory but have a need for concrete examples of the methodological implications of such theory.
Enlivening this account is the compelling description of the histories and lives of the students in the literacy class campesinos women who have survived a brutal and devastating civil war in El Salvador and who, nevertheless, stepped forward to work with a U.S.-trained literacy teacher, Robin Waterman, to learn to read and write for purposes of personal and sociocultural empowerment. The authors provide a highly readable presentation of the historical and cultural contexts for the women and the literacy class. They also raise issues of socioeconomic marginalization, unequal power relationships, and gender as they relate to literacy development.
Basing their account on meticulously gathered and analyzed ethnographic data, Purcell-Gates and Waterman go beyond the presentation of the study to suggest implications and issues for adult literacy education in the United States, linking their findings to current topics in adult education, as well as literacy development in general.
"The volume's in-depth quality comes from the useful detail provided throughout, including photographs, writing samples, and explicit connections to current literature….this is a highly useful volume."
"…the main purpose of the book is for readers to 'understand how the principles, processes, and procedures inherent to Freire's beliefs about education, and its purpose and role in society, transact with the acquisition and development of reading and writing skills by adults' (p. 201). The authors are overwhelmingly successful in meeting their goal."
—Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy
"This book provides an exciting new synthesis of learner-centered pedagogy and critical theories of education. Purcell-Gates and Waterman tackle the pervasive discourses of adult education including the ways competing and conflicting views of what counts as literacy and literate behavior are constructed through the media, literacy classroom, and government campaigns…The authors engage these discourses through vivid portraits of individual students and the sociocultural forces that shape their education….Purcell-Gates and Waterman's book introduces new methodologies for adult education including teacher-research, empowering practitioners to study their local lives, and including students in this process of praxis. This book is indispensable for educational researchers and teachers who are concerned with asymmetries in educational knowledge."
—Adult Education Quarterly
"Victoria Purcell-Gates and Robin Waterman offer a fresh perspective on adult literacy at the same time that they provide insight into literacy education in general….The field of literacy development and education can benefit from more studies of this type and caliber-studies that invite readers into both classrooms and teachers' thought processes."
"Clear and accessible….The quality of scholarship is impressive without being overbearing. One of the most compelling aspects of this book is the intimate portrait of the students involved and the new social possibilities they foresee as a result of the literacy program initiated by the authors."
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
"Very engaging and a unique and useful addition to the literature…This book combines an understanding of Freire's pedagogy with the research-based practice of literacy acquisition--a step that has been needed for some time and could only be taken by an informed ethnography…It is very honest and this makes it very credible…There is a large group of people who are interested in Freire's work, and they will all find this book useful."
Harvard University Graduate School of Education
Contents: Preface. Part I: Contexts. Adult Literacy and Paulo Freire: A Lens for Hope. Revolutionary Struggle and Literacy: Historical Context. A Literacy Class Takes Shape: Eight Women's Literacy Histories and Motivations. Part II: The Literacy Class. The Literacy Class: Engaging With Social Reality and Print to Effect Change. Learning Through Dialogue: Reading and Writing the World. The Language of the People: Issues of Language and Power. Dialogic Practice: The Teacher as Student and the Student as Teacher. ¿Quién Fui, Quién Soy, Quién Puedo Ser? Who Was I, Who Am I, Who Can I Be? Part III: Insights for Adult Literacy Education. Literacy Development and Freirean-Based Pedagogy. Appendices: Researchers' Histories and Stances. Methodology.