Alfred Tatum and "Textual Lineages"
One of the best parts of going to conventions can be the flights, because you are often seated near people with similar interests, but not necessarily the circle of familiar faces you plan to meat on panels and at parties. Flying out here to NCTE-ALAN, I met a woman who edits books on secondary school education aimed at teachers, and she told me about one of her new authors, Alfred Tatum www.alfredtatum.com/ Dr. Tatum is focused on kids who, like he was as a child, are poor, black, male — and thus in great danger. The editor I met (Lisa was her first name, I must admit I don’t recall her second name) told me she attended a conference where people who build prisons stated that they decide where new facilities should be built based on 3rd grade reading scores — show poor literacy in third grade, very likely you will have a population that will later fill up prison cells. Dr. Tatum is working to change that.
The key phrase you’ll see on his site is "textual lineage" — the idea — similar to what I said about the vertical axis a few blogs ago — is that kids who don’t read do not have a set of stories, images, phrases, narratives to ground, to weave in to, their current understanding. So the challenge is not merely to find texts that, say, poor black males will like (the cry of relevance), or that they can easily read (readability indices), but also which add depth, texture, understanding to their lives. Reading then is not merely a skill but a foundation
This sounds very promising to me, so I am going to his talk this afternoon. As I have written here before, approximately 50% of black kids in America do not graduate high school — ever, no GED, no future. And if Dr. Tatum is working to counter that, he is a man I need to meet and get to know.