Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name



Elementary Education

First Advisor

Karen M. Feathers


Historically, African American boys have underperformed their Caucasian, Hispanic, and female counterparts in the area of reading. Key indicators reveal that the reading achievement gap between African American boys and their counterparts persists despite efforts to ameliorate the problem. Some researchers and school reformers point to the instructional practices and testing mandates as part of the reason as to why boys, and African American boys, in particular, are underperforming in reading. Critical literacy and literature discussion groups are presented as two processes that might improve African American boys reading achievement. This study investigated the impact of critical literacy practices within a social learning context (literature discussion group) on African American boys' development towards critical literacy. Additionally, this study explored the impact of the instructor's roles and actions on African American boys' development towards critical literacy. The study involved an instructor who engaged five African American boys in two critical literacy strategies across seven instructional sessions that spanned a 9-week timeframe. The two critical literacy strategies were taught and applied within a literature discussion group setting. Data consisted of student interviews, transcriptions and video tapes of instructional sessions, field notes, and thick descriptions. Analysis of the data revealed that these African American boys made progress towards, but did not achieve, critical literacy. Analysis also revealed that the instructor's actions contributed to the boys progress, but may have contributed to the boys not fully achieving critical literacy. This study reveals that critical literacy strategies and literature discussion groups hold promise for moving African American boys beyond a literal understanding of printed text to a critical understanding of text. However, it should be understood that progress toward is not without challenges as both the boys and the instructor require time and practice to hold critical discussions about and around texts. Moreover, to fully understand critical literacy development, future research projects should engage students over an extended period of time. Also, the roles and actions taken by the instructor should be studied to better understand the kind of support needed to help students achieve critical literacy.