Examining the Racial Awareness and Literate Meaning Making Practices of Young Urban African American Children
Wintre Johnson

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pennsylvania

Primary Discipline

Issues concerning race and racism often are considered too difficult for young children to comprehend. Underlying this perspective is an assumption that there is a common lived experience for young children of all backgrounds, an idea rooted in a time when young children were less likely than the present to be exposed to the ubiquitous, technological advances that make the news so much a part of their daily experiences. While there are some universal aspects of childhood that connect children of all backgrounds, young children of color experience childhood differently as they come of age. Few empirical studies on early racial awareness have exclusively examined African American children's perspectives, a group in the U.S. whose contemporary social location and historical experiences of marginalization enable them to form and offer distinct insights. Focused on five African American first-graders enrolled in an urban independent, community school, this qualitative inquiry investigates what children, ages six and seven, understand about contemporary and historical racialized circumstances, the socialization sources and messages upon which they draw, and their meaning-making regarding race and structural inequalities through multiple literacy practices. Grounded in sociocultural and early literacy studies and developmental science on young children's emerging knowledge and identities, this study demonstrates how young African American children use literacy to make meaning about social stratification across time, thereby illuminating the critical, nuanced, and racialized knowing that young children are often assumed not to possess and the stories, experiences, and perspectives they offer when provided a space for expression.
About Wintre Johnson
Wintre Foxworth Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate in Reading/Writing/Literacy at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Johnson was a prekindergarten and kindergarten teacher prior to pursuing doctoral studies. Her research and scholarship aim to document the lived experiences and complex, emergent literate practices of young children of color, uniting three strands of inquiry: literacy learning and expression among children of color; young children's racialized experiences in and out of schools; and the informal and formal socialization of children and youth of color in urban contexts. Through a series of after-school literacy circles and parent, teacher, and principal interviews, her dissertation investigates the sociopolitical knowledge young African American children possess regarding society and the literacy practices upon which they draw to articulate and represent that knowledge. Johnson holds a B.A. with high distinction in African American and African Studies and a B.A. in Government from the University of Virginia, where she completed a thesis examining how the racial makeup and organizational dynamics of domestic work in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil served as a challenge to the racial democracy myth. Johnson is a 2018-2020 fellow in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color Program.

Pin It on Pinterest