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Literacies of Love: Trauma, Healing, and Pedagogical Shifts in an English Classroom


Emerging research shows that more than half of all U.S. children have experienced some kind of trauma in the form of abuse, neglect, violence, or challenging household circumstances—and 35 percent of children have experienced more than one type of traumatic event (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). In this study— Literacies of Love: Trauma, Healing and Pedagogical Shifts in an English Classroom—I draw from, blend, and synthesize existing research in the fields of public health, social epidemiology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, Ethnic Studies, and education to achieve a more robust understanding of trauma, its effects, and existing interventions. I then draw from these aforementioned fields to highlight a grotesquely under-theorized, but widely agreed upon intervention to child trauma: loving relationships (Ginwright, 2016; Duncan-Andrade, 2009; Perry, 2007; Siegel & Solomon, 2003, Van Der Kolk, 2014).

Drawing on a corpus of data collected throughout my tenure as a teacher-researcher, I integrate student work, interviews, focus groups, reflections, videos, and journal entries to conceptualize love and illustrate how to cultivate loving relationships and literacies within an English classroom. Through qualitative analysis, including discourse, media, and document analysis, my dissertation highlights the strong corollary between literacy practices and loving relationships to self, classroom, and community. This research is timely, coinciding with significant shifts in the field towards trauma-informed pedagogies and social-emotional learning. Moreover, this study will make a valuable contribution to educational research at the intersection of trauma-informed pedagogies, critical literacy, and urban education.

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