Literacy 7-12

Systems Change
Literacy 7-12 > Factors > Critical Literacy

Critical Literacy

Factor Connections

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Critical Literacy is the ability to identify purposes, motives, and potential biases of a particular text to enhance overall comprehension and critical thinking. Teaching adolescents to uncover these meanings helps them form perspectives on society and prepares them for civic participation in the complex world. Those students who are explicitly taught to question text show higher reading comprehension.

Main Ideas

Early adolescents begin to make inferences about texts but may largely accept what they read in a text as truth. As they grow, adolescents are increasingly able to understand the power structures presented within texts and take on the perspectives of other groups. By high school, Inferencing and questioning skills are sharpened, and Critical Literacy becomes a more explicit, three-part process:

  • Analysis of multiple texts: As older adolescents are typically exposed to varied texts with multiple viewpoints, analyzing, evaluating, and questioning these viewpoints creates deeper meaning for the reader.
  • Continuous inquiry: Constant questioning of text leads readers to search for potential biases and underlying meanings as they are uncovering power structures that may be embedded in text.
  • Metacognitive reflection: When students reflect upon what they have read, it gives them more opportunity to dig deeper into the meaning of a text.

This three-part process can be used to question the source and biases of a text to support deeper understanding including:

Critical Theory views society and culture through a contextual lens and addresses the multiple inequities that exist. Critical Theory researchers suggest that all texts are subjective in nature and have multiple meanings within these socio-cultural lenses. Research within this area focuses on societal disparities based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexual identity. Building students' Critical Literacy skills through this lens can raise their socio-political consciousness and support civic action and participation.

New Literacies include understanding of multimodal texts which result from developments in technology (e.g., the Internet, social media) and greater information available digitally. These literacies are necessary for societal participation and require an increase in awareness and information literacy, that is, the ability to discern fact from fiction in digital sources.

Learn More

  • Cultivating Genius: Free CE-credit webinar on building Critical Literacy skills using culturally responsive pedagogy

View Measures and References