All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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Literacy Practices Interview

(2010)

Literacy practices interviews are informal assessments that elicit information on students' reading and writing activities, including their free-time reading habits, their access to books, and their attitudes toward reading and writing. Use the interviews in one-on-one or small, focus group-like settings.

To identify varying levels of reading and writing use/engagement among different youth:

  1. You can choose to read a lot of different things. Take a look at these pictures of different reading materials. If you could choose any of these, which one would you choose to read first? (A separate notebook with color photos of many types of texts is used to supplement this interview.)

    1. What made you pick X [interviewer should say text type/name aloud] first?
    2. Have you actually read that before this, or did you just think you might like to read it?
    3. Which one would you pick second?
    4. What made you pick X second?
    5. Have you actually read that before this, or did you just think you might like to read it?
    6. What would be your third choice?
    7. What made you pick X third?
    8. Have you actually read that before this, or did you just think you might like to read it?
  2. If there are other things you like to read that aren’t in the pictures, please tell me about them.
    1. What sorts of things are you best at reading?
    2. Why do you read these things?
    3. Where do you get the things you read?
    4. Do other kids you know also read these?
    5. Do people older than you read these things?
    6. How do you find these materials?
    7. Where do you read [insert the text named]?
    8. Do you ever read [insert the text named] with other people? What kinds of people? (Advise participant not to name people but to describe relationships, types of people such as friends, siblings, relatives.)

To identify specific reasons for reading and writing:

  1. How often do you read just for fun?
  2. Can you give me an example [e.g., title] of something that you read for fun?
  3. Why do you find it fun to read [insert the text named by the participant]?

To identify and begin to collect specific texts and text types that youth are reading and writing:

  1. What kinds of things do you read in order to help yourself or other people get things done? (probe, if necessary)
    • Manuals
    • Recipes
    • Catalogs
    • Sewing patterns
    • Internet web pages
    • Instructions
    • References (dictionary, atlas, encyclopedia)
    • Phone book
    • Bus schedules
    • Family mail
    • Newsletters
    • Newspaper

To begin to identify social networks in which reading and writing occur and to document how those networks mediate the reading and writing practices:

  1. How many books would you say you have in your house?
  2. Do you read things together with your family members? (e.g., newspapers, TV guide, sports reports, magazines, family letters/emails, official letters)
  3. How often do you go to the local library to borrow books, CDs, videos? With whom?
  4. Do your friends have books that they share with you? What are they?
  5. Do you share books with your friends? Which ones?

To begin to document intersections between print and visual media practices:

  1. How often do you use the computer?
  2. Do you use the internet to read information about your favorite actors/heroes/sports stars/musicians?
  3. Are there things you see and hear about on television that you then go and read more about those things on the internet or in books?
  4. Do you ever buy/borrow books or magazines about your favorite films or performers?
  5. What kinds of computer games do you like to play?
  6. Have you ever done fan fiction writing on line or with friends on paper?
  7. What do you know about websites or blogs?

To begin to identify human and material resources for reading and writing:

  1. Do you see yourself as a reader?
  2. Do your family members see you as someone who likes reading?
  3. When you get gifts and presents from family members, do they often give you books that suit your interests?
  4. When was the last time that a member of your family bought you a book?
  5. Some people feel that reading and writing are very important skills to have in order to be a successful and happy person in the world, other people say it doesn’t matter. What do you think about that?

To identify specific reasons for writing and attitudes toward writing:

  1. Do you write outside of school?
  2. What do you write?
  3. Why do you write?
  4. How often do you write?
  5. How good at writing are you? (Probe: not at all good… very good)
  6. How often do you write just for fun?
  7. What kinds of things do you write just for fun?
    • Comic books
    • Teen ’zines
    • Newspaper articles(school, local, or other)
    • Chapter books (not for school work)
    • Information books (biographies, how-to books, science, etc.)
    • Picture books
    • Internet web pages
    • Email
    • Bible, Catechism, Torah, Koran, or other religious writings
    • Poetry
    • Music lyrics
    • Letters or notes
    • Catalog order forms
  8. Do you write [insert the text named] with other people? What kinds of people?
  9. Who do you write for?
  10. Who reads the things you write?
  11. What makes you really want to write something?
  12. What makes you really not want to write something?
  13. Do you ever write in order to help yourself or other people get things done? (e.g., instructions, recipes, family mail).

Moje, E. and Tysvaer, N. (2009). Adolescent literacy development in out-of-school time: A practitioner's guidebook. New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York. Adapted with permission from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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