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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Adolescents as Readers of Social Studies: Examining the Relationship between Youth’s Everyday and Social Studies Literacies and Learning

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In this paper, we examine the relationship between student engagement and social studiesliteracy, exploring the possible connections between students’ reading interests and practices andsocial studies learning. With a sample of 802 secondary students from five schools in one urbancommunity, we use complementary methods to explore survey and interview data. Descriptiveanalysis of survey data indicated that study participants often perceived social studies educationin school as boring and irrelevant. Nevertheless, qualitative analysis of interview data from asubsample revealed that many young people describe using texts to explore dimensions of theiridentities as well as themes of struggle and conflict. We use these findings to illuminateconnections between youths’ concerns and interests and the enduring problems taken up by thesocial sciences, arguing that attention to these connections has the potential to engage studentsand develop their thinking and literacy practices in the social studies.

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