Journal of Undergraduate Research


community literacies, availability of texts, elementary school classroom


David O. McKay School of Education


Teacher Education


It is an unarguable fact that literacy instruction is one of the most vital aspects of elementary education. Without literacy, knowing how to read and write, students will find success in the “real” world difficult to come by. Traditionally, the focus of literacy instruction has been linked to giving students the tools they will need once out of school, however recent studies have begun to look more critically at what literacies students are bringing into the classroom. These investigations look explicitly at community literacy, specifically, the funds of knowledge that students learn from their homes and communities that may not align with the traditional idea of “academic literacy,” yet still allow for literacy to be functional in everyday life. Pahl & Rowsell state, “Literacy can be found embedded in popular songs, within electronic equipment and software, within malls and signage” (2012, p. 56-57). This idea that literacy and understanding can be found in non-traditional print texts has the potential to drastically change the way literacy is taught in school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2011-12 school year, there were an estimated 4.4 million English language learners (ELLs) in the United States (2014). If teachers can identify the way literacy is being used by their students at home and in their community practices (i.e. church, after school programs, household activities, etc.) they will be better able to make sense of the way children use literacy in school (Pahl & Rowsell, 2012, p. 56). Furthermore, understanding how home literacy affects how children use and understand literacy in school can help teachers bridge the gap between home and school. Given an increase in student diversity in classrooms, it is essential that teachers come to understand students’ backgrounds, funds of knowledge, and personal experiences. A large body of literature suggests that students’ lives are full of literacies that they developed in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities. Community literacies encompass the “social, cultural, and historical contexts of literacy practice, one of those contexts being the communities in which students live and work outside of school” (Moje, 2000, p. 79). There is a call for the integration of students’ funds of knowledge—which provide a means for students to make meaning of the world—into classroom literacy instruction, thereby allowing students to transfer home literacies to school and vice versa. Current research suggests that teachers would do well to acknowledge and build upon the literacies students develop outside the classroom. However, it is not enough to learn about the communities from which students come; teachers need to collectively seek to understand, appreciate, and utilize this information. Literacy is not something that is acquired only within the four walls of the classroom. Students are growing up in an increasingly diverse world and have opportunities to engage with text, both print and non-print, ion a daily basis. Teachers can better help children learn and acquire literacy when the texts and literacies discussed in the classroom are connected to the lives of the children. However, teachers may be unaware of the texts and literacies that children encounter outside of school. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to identify and describe the texts and literacies students engage with on a daily basis.