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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Thursday, February 14, 2008

Literacy researchers from around the world at IU this weekend

National conference focuses on literacy in communities

Feb. 14, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Around 200 of the top literacy researchers in the U.S. and world will be at the Indiana University School of Education in Bloomington this weekend for the National Council of Teachers of English Assembly for Research's mid-winter conference.

Over two days, plus a pre-conference workshop, researchers will share their insights into literacy in communities, including work with English as a second language students, blogging and other modern technologies influencing literacy, African-American Vernacular English in the workplace and youth using media arts.

Sessions begin with the pre-conference workshop on Friday at the Wright Education Building, with sessions all day Saturday and Sunday. The conference requires paid registration, but is open to teachers, scholars or others who register on site.

While the title of the organization and focus on literacy in communities might imply study of reading and writing, the conference will cover a wide range of topics.

"When we think about literacy, we don't just think about reading and writing, but ways of acting and interacting and engaging in the world in various ways," said conference co-chair Stephanie Power Carter, assistant professor in the Department of Language Education in the IU School of Education. "We actually have a session on Friday night that's living literacy, where we have spoken word. During our reception we have spoken word poets. We have a muralist coming from Philadelphia."

The literacy topics vary greatly. Among the Sunday sessions is one focusing on teaching Korean children to view the media critically. Another examines Bible-based literacy practices of children who live in homeless shelters. IU researchers will share their work alongside experts from as far away as Australia, San Francisco and Portland.

"We have graduate students here at Indiana University who have been doing some really powerful work in Indianapolis with the emerging Latino population," said conference co-chair Gerald Campano, also an assistant professor in the Department of Language Education. "We have just a range of researchers."

Campano said teachers from the Watson Boys Academy in Gary will come to the conference to share insight into their partnership with the School of Education. Campano is involved in a project that helped the Gary elementary school start a "Writers' House" as a part of its literacy curriculum.

Carter said researchers will also discuss the meaning of community when it comes to teaching literacy -- particularly important with the spread of instant and online communication. The conference will focus on making sure teachers are a part of the equation of literacy research, something Carter has focused on through her community literacy work with Bloomington schools.

Over the three days, Carter said researchers and educators will be able to pick up new ideas shared by those with a different perspective on community literacy.

"We might have one way of thinking about it, but others might have a different way and that's part of what the conference is about -- engaging in those conversations and exploring a variety of ways to work in communities and in solidarity with communities," Carter said.

Media Outlets: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."

Campano says the community literacy researchers will explore some of the basics behind their methods during this weekend's conference:

"And asking the fundamental question, who is the research for? Who does it benefit? In many ways it's kind of in line with the new vision of the School of Education and the scholarship of engagement, in some ways, that the research is supposed to engage communities and contribute to community well-being and development."

Carter says the NCTE researchers have classroom teachers central in the research they'll be exploring:

"When we think researchers, we don't think teachers, but we see definitely teachers as part of that conversation, and students. We don't take them out of the equation. As a matter of fact, a lot of teachers and graduate students and we even have some high school students that will be participating in the conference. So I'm really excited about that."

The range of topics, from mural painting, to blogging, to language acquisition, will help researchers discover new paths in community literacy, Carter says:

"We see it as engaging in a conversation so people could come from a lot of different ways. We might have one way of thinking about it, but others might have a different way and that's part of what the conference is about is engaging in those conversations and exploring a variety of ways to work in communities and in solidarity as Gerald said, with communities."

For more information, contact Chuck Carney at 812-856-8027 or