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Perry, Kristen. “What is Literacy? –A critical overview of sociocultural perspectives.” Journal of Language and Literacy Education. Spring 2012 8.1 50-71. Web. Stedman, Kyle. "What are New Literacies." Writing Common. Web.; Justice, Clifton. Sociocultural Literacy: The Social Nature of Reading and Writing.


Many see literacy as a purely cognitive activity where one either knows how to read or not, and any challenges one has to becoming literate are a result of intellectual issues or laziness. Further, those thinking of literacy in this way emphasize the literacy of school over the literacy that takes place in the home, or at work, or during leisure time. Finally, those thinking of literacy from a cognitive perspective only consider an individual’s experiences with print when examining literacy. In her introduction, Kristen Perry points out that there is another way to look at literacy using a social perspective. She notes, along with other ideas, that sociocultural literacy perspectives are “concerned with understanding the ways in which people use literacy in their everyday lives,” and “incorporating students’ out-of-school ways of practicing literacy” (51). The reasoning for looking at literacy practices in this way Perry suggests is to understand the contexts in which literacy takes place and at the same time to explore the link between literacy and cultural and power structures (53).

While most researchers lump sociocultural literacy perspectives together, Perry separates the perspective into three distinct categories: literacy as a social practice, multiliteracies, and critical literacies.

Literacy as a social practice focuses on “what people do with reading, writing, and texts in real world contexts and why they do it”

(54). Perry argues the reason for looking at literacy practices in this way is to see how “practices connect to, and are shaped by, values, attitudes, feelings, and social relationships” (54). Literacy as a social practice looks at more than the text on the page and attempts to place the text, any text, within the individual’s life and experience. This literacy perspective is primarily concerned with print. The next two perspectives build off of the cornerstone idea of literacy as a social practice.

Multiliteracies are best thoughts of as literacies that go beyond print. Those who study multiliteracies “view literacy as involving multiple modes of visual, gestural, spatial, and other forms of representation” (53 – 4). While they do not oppose the studying of print, they think studying only print literacy cuts out the numerous and varied texts that are available to today’s readers. Developments such as the Internet, the World Wide Web, audio and video platforms, as well as older media, such as television, movies, and music have greatly expanded notions of what a text is or can be. The ability to effectively read these texts is increasingly important to being literate in our age.

Critical literacies, Perry points out, addresses issues such as power and empowerment, agency, and identity (60). At the heart of critical literacies is the individual’s ability to reflect upon not only physical texts, but also, the world the texts are created within. Literate individuals take what they learn from texts and use it to change themselves and their world into a more equitable place. While power structures are important to all sociocultural perspectives, they dominate in critical literacies. Texts are seen as documents that contain racial, class, and gender struggles.


After you have reflected on Perry’s notions of sociocultural perspectives of literacy, create a literacy gallery which illustrates and explains some of the literacy events that have characterized your first year at CSUCI. A literacy gallery means that your document will include both images and text. Perry’s three sociocultural perspectives – literacy as a social practice, multiliteracies, and critical literacies – should guide you in your choice of literacy events to include and discuss. Your document should have the following sections: an introduction, a literacy gallery consisting of three to five entries, and a works cited.


  • Platform: Drafts must be submitted in CIDocs.
  • Pictures/Images: Any borrowed images should be cited in a caption or in an Images Cited section following the Works Cited. See professor for assistance
  • Sources: Four+ sources required.
  • Sources referenced must be cited in-text and in a Works Cited section. See professor for assistance.
  • Page count: 6 - 9 pages including images and works cited section.

Deadlines and Important Dates

  • Week 8: Begin project
  • Week 13: Draft due
  • Week 14: Final essay due

Due dates for drafts are 24 hours before 9 AM class meetings.

Further Details.png

Writing literacy stories

The idea of writing about one's literacy development is common, but if you've never done it before, here are some links that you might find helpful in putting your story together.

Choosing your literacy events

  • You will need to provide 3 to 5 sociocultural literacy events in your gallery. Note: Literacy events are observable activities with texts. Texts include both print and non-print media, audio/video media, and digital media to name a few.
  • Sociocultural literacy events may take place during class, but are just as likely to occur outside of classes and may have no relation to academic activities.
  • Choose literacy events that speak to Perry's theory of literacy as a sociocultural practice as explained by the professor.
  • Choose literacy events that hold significance for your literacy development and that you can write about effectively.
  • Also, keep in mind your portfolio audience as you choose literacy events. They will expect you to be thoughtful about your choices and will easily identify careless or simplistic responses to the writing task.

Writing the Introduction

  • The introduction should help readers make sense of the project.
  • The introduction should prepare readers for the gallery they are about to view.
  • The introduction should help readers understand sociocultural literacy and how you have utilized it to select items for your literacy gallery.
  • The introduction should offer readers 2 - 3 pages of semi-formal academic writing. The use of "I" is acceptable.
  • Insert a page break after your Introduction and before your gallery.

Creating your gallery

  • For each of your literacy events, you will need to create/select a single representative image. You’ll need to give thought to how you want to visually represent your various literacy events.
  • Your image may be a drawing, a photograph, or text, such as quotes, commentary, or a word poem. The representation can be very literal, such as a title of a book, or it can be more abstract, for example, an image that illustrates your emotional connection with the literacy event.

Writing captions for your gallery

  • Captions accompany gallery images and are just below or to the side of an image. Gallery images and captions should be on the same page. Design your images and your paragraphs to fit on one page.
  • The caption paragraph should in no particular order: 1. explain the literacy event's sociocultural perspective, 2. classify your literacy event in one or more of Perry’s categories (literacy as social practice, multiliteracies, critical literacies), as well as defend your classification, 3. discuss the significance of the literacy event to your literacy/personal development, and 4. reveal how your image connects to your literacy event.
  • Captions are single-spaced.
  • Sources are welcomed in your captions.
  • Insert a page break after your Gallery and before your works cited.

Assignment Outcomes

1. Critical Thinking: Students will achieve the following:

  • an ability to analyze written work;
  • an ability to frame conclusions from a range of information;
  • an ability to predict outcomes based on known information.

2. Communication Skills: Students will achieve the following:

  • an ability to more clearly and more effectively write academic papers;
  • ability to design, conduct and defend a research project.
  • an ability to effectively and convincingly verbalize their ideas;
  • an ability to work collaboratively in group processes.

3. Research Skills: Students will gain the following:a familiarity with CI library resources;

  • a familiarity with major data bases;
  • a proficiency with basic computing skills;
  • an ability to discern valid research conclusions;

4. Self Development: Students will develop an ability to cogently reflect on roles of learning on personal and intellectual growth.


This essay is your Final essay. It is worth 40% of your final course grade.
Writing Criteria in the First-Year Writing Program at CI
will be the rubric used for the final essay assessment.


  • Contact the professor at
  • Come to office hours held Tuesday - Thursday from 8:30 - 9:00 AM in Broome 2680
  • Make an appointment to speak with the professor, if the office hour time does not work for your schedule.
  • Talk to the professor before or after class.
  • Visit the Multiliteracy Center for assignment assistance.
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