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EDUC 2371

Introduction to Critical Literacy

Critical literacy is the term used to refer to a particular aspect of critical thinking.

  • Critical literacy involves looking beyond the literal meaning of a text to determine what is present and what is missing, in order to analyse and evaluate the text’s complete meaning and the author’s intent.
  • Critical literacy is concerned with issues related to fairness, equity, and social justice.

Critically literate students adopt a critical stance, asking what view of the world the text advances and whether they find this view acceptable, who benefits from the text, and how the reader is influenced.  (Ontario Ministry of Education, n.d.)

  • points of view (e.g., those of people from various cultures);
  • context (e.g., the beliefs and practices of the time and place in which a text was created and those in which it is being read or viewed);
  • the background of the person who is interacting with the text (e.g., upbringing, friends, communities, education, experiences/positionality);
  • intertextuality (e.g., information that a reader or viewer brings to a text from other texts experienced previously);
  • gaps in the text (e.g., information that is left out and that the reader or viewer must fill in);
  • silences in the text (e.g., the absence of the voices of certain people or groups).

(Ontario Ministry of Education, n.d.)

Critical Indigenous Literacy:

  • Think about:
    • Authorship and identity in relation to the stories and teachings we trust as reader- Own Voices
    • Character/content representation
    • Misinformation
    • Historical representations

Small Group Activity: 
Review the books 

  1. Identify the book that may be problematic
  2. Capture your responses to the following questions:
    • Who wrote this and why?
    • Who benefits most from this text?
    • Does the author share the identity of  the underrepresented/marginalized group represented in the story? Are any voices missing from this text?
    •  How are characters represented in the illustrations and text? (stereotypes, names, complexity etc.)
  3. Briefly compare and contrast with the alternate book you've chosen
  4. Prepare to share relevant information in a full group discussion
  5. Considering the above, and your evaluation, would you incorporate either of these books or both into a lesson plan/unit?

Are these titles problematic?

Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

A Taste of Colored Water 

Ling and Ting by  Grace Lin


What does the Alberta classroom look like?


Data about Calgary's population

Calgary school boards assess thousands of refugee students arriving since July
The Calgary Board of Education expects more than 7,000 new students this fall, a number that could rise as more refugees arrive at the CBE Welcome Centre. 


2021 Alberta Census Data on Indigenous Peoples
Statistics Canada


Alberta government’s population statistics 

Critical Literacy Resources


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Pearl Herscovitch
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