Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Topic: Help with Literacy--Literacy Brokers

10-second review: Refugees who do not know English very well can ask for the help of “literacy brokers” to complete tasks involving reading and writing in their daily lives.

Title: “Genres, Contexts and Literacy Practices: Literacy Brokering Among Sudanese Refugee Families.” K. H. Perry. Reading Research Quarterly (July/August/September 2009), 256-276. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary: The refugee needed help with completing a job application form. The literacy broker introduced her to a phone book where she could find information on her references. She did not know how to use the phone book.

Example of Literacy Brokering

Quote: “I helped her find the hotel’s number [a previous employer] in the yellow pages and the restaurant’s [a previous employer] information in the business section. After we copied the relevant information, I introduced Viola to the three sections of the phone book. The business section, I explained, provided an alphabetical listing of area businesses. The yellow pages also were business listings, but they were organized by category, such as hotels or restaurants, and they also included advertisements. The white pages, I added, listed personal at-home phone numbers. ‘Oh!’ Viola exclaimed, indicating that this information was new to her.” p. 256.

Quote: “This vignette illustrates an example of literacy brokering, when individuals seek informal help with the texts and literacy practices they encounter on an every-day basis….” p. 256.

What Do Literacy Brokers Do?

Quote: “Literacy brokering is a complex activity that may involve one aspect of a text, such as translation of word meanings, mediation of cultural content, or explanation of genre aspects [the phone book] of a printed text, or it may involve many of these aspects all at once.” p. 257.

Where Would One Find a Literacy Broker?

Quote: “Sudanese community members had access to a broad network of support in Michigan—social workers, clergy, sponsoring American families, volunteer tutors, co-workers, neighbors…. The parents reported turning to all of these individuals when they needed help with texts.”

Comment: Not much help on the Internet regarding literacy brokering as described in this article. One definition of “literacy brokering” on the Internet is in helping people with academic publishing—completely unrelated to the literacy brokering described in this article in which people unfamiliar with the English language seek help with everyday literacy tasks.

I guess, wherever adult literacy is taught, one should be able to arrange for help by a literacy broker. Here in Chester County, PA,, the Chester County Library is a sponsor of programs in adult literacy. Another place to look for help might be local colleges or universities. RayS.

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