Teachers College Press

0807736392.gif Writing Superheroes

Anne Haas Dyson
Language and Literacy Series
Pub Date: 1997, 264 pages

Paperback: $24.95, ISBN: 0807736392
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"This is far and away the best book in education on the relationship between children and popular culture I have read. Anne Haas Dyson brings to life the agency of children as they deal with the politics of literacy. Writing Superheroes should be read by anyone interested in the human drama of classrooms and in democratic possibilities in education."

–Michael W. Apple,
University of Wisconsin—Madison

"Tired of easy rhetoric about ‘critical literacy?’ Read this book! Here it happens, through young children’s writings and the dramas and discussions that follow, from X-men to Greek myths and Rosa Parks. It is Anne Dyson’s most important work.

–Courtney Cazden,
Harvard Graduate School of Education

"Dyson crosses conventional boundaries of analysis to connect children’s engagement with popular culture with their construction of selves and social relationships. A provocative contribution to the study of literacy, pedagogy, and contemporary, diverse childhoods."

–Barrie Thorne,
author of Gender Play, University of California, Berkeley

Based on an ethnographic study in an urban classroom of 7- to 9-year olds, Writing Superheroes examines how young school children use popular culture, especially superhero stories, in the unofficial peer social world and in the official school literacy curriculum.

In one sense, the book is about children "writing superheroes"–about children appropriating superhero stories in their fiction writing and dramatic play on the playground and in the classroom. These stories offer children identities as powerful people who do battle against evil and win. The stories, however, also reveal limiting ideological assumptions about relations between people–boys and girls, adults and children, people of varied heritages, physical demeanors, and social classes. The book, then, is also about children as "writing superheroes."

With the assistance of their teacher, the observed children became superheroes of another sort, able to take on powerful cultural storylines. In this book, Anne Dyson examines how the children’s interest in and conflicts about commercial culture give rise to both literacy and social learning, including learning how to participate in a community of differences.

Also by Anne Haas Dyson:
Social Worlds of Children Learning to Write in an Urban Primary School
Multiple Worlds of Child Writers: Friends Learning to Write

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