Book Review: “Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology and Discourses”

 By Cecilia

Literacy is composed of an array of contexts that together create a type of language that allows for communication.  James Paul Gee did an outstanding job of portraying the different elements involved in literacy and social linguistics.

In particular, Gee discusses the different types of discourses a human being develops throughout their life and how these particular happenings form and shape each unique individual. 

This intrigued me as a teacher, mother and student because if we are able to see that people come with all types of discourses that were developed while in their early youth, and then transformed with each experience we encounter, imagine the difference it would make if we knew this before we expected them to perform for us in the classroom.  Teachers, especially, would benefit greatly from the information within Gee’s book, Social Linguistics and Literacies because it clarifies the issues that we sometimes look at our students and judge them based on their lack of correct English.  Gee elaborates on the fact that communities are basing “who” and “what” is correct within the school environment and rebuffing attempts of solidarity being made by all of these types of children. 

I began to understand that we are all brought up in different environments with different expectations and experiences.  This shapes who we are and who we will become greatly.  The fact that our primary discourses are learned at the earliest stages of our lives allows us to understand why our students sometimes behave the way they do.  It aids in the teaching style an educator should hold when trying to present a successful lesson to a classroom of 30 elementary students.  Although each teacher experiences unique struggles within the classroom, Gee’s outlook at literacy and linguistics opens the mind to the realities each of our students brings with them when they enter the classroom.  We, as educators, mothers, fathers, and students should want to correct the injustice some of our students are encountering in the classrooms because of the lack of experiences they have acquired.  Literacy is not just the ability to read and write but it is much more than that. It is the knowledge of different “discourses” which are part of our personalities and the knowledge of the beliefs and values connected to these discourses.


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