Many Families, Many Literacies: An International Declaration of Principles
By Denny Taylor.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1997. 244 pp. $25.95 (paper).
Many Families, Many Literacies: An International Declaration of Principles supports families, recognizes diverse communities, and promotes equality and social justice. The development of an International Declaration of Principles began in 1994 when international scholars gathered at the International Forum on Family Literacy in Tucson, Arizona, to address the development of family literacy programs and the national standards to assess these programs. Subsequent meetings included other literacy scholars and practitioners who met at the Whole Language Umbrella Conference in 1995 and at the Family Literacy Seminar for teachers at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in 1996. This collaborative process resulted in a comprehensive and useful volume that may be viewed as a handbook that literacy experts, policymakers, and practitioners will find thought provoking and useful.
This book includes the history of the declaration, a preamble, the seven sets of literacy principles, and a section entitled, "I want to ask a question: Family members speak out," which addresses literacy programs. Editor Denny Taylor challenges the present deficit-driven family model embedded in literacy programs by redefining "the relationship of literacy to poverty, the notion of socioeconomic status, and the concept of 'disadvantaged'" families (p. 3) while being more inclusive of diverse families and acknowledging their funds of knowledge -- their language, their multiple approaches to literacies, and their ability to solve the daily events of life (p. xx). The rest of the volume is divided into the seven sets of literacy principles about families, language and literacy, ethical research issues, pedagogy and family literacy programs, assessment of family literacy programs, and policymakers' and educators' roles. Each section includes the definition of a literacy principle, as well as short essays and vignettes by literacy experts, practitioners, and family literacy program participants, who share their approaches to literacy practices at home and in the community. Some of the contributing authors are Marilyn Antonucci, Elsa Auerbach, Michele Foster, Ken and Yetta Goodman, and Elvira Souza Lima.
Taylor and the other contributors challenge the assumption that poor families are empty vessels. Taylor welcomes conversations with others to begin the process of redefining family literacy program policies away from a deficit-driven model to one that acknowledges the complexities within families and among families, and that builds on families' funds of knowledge while honoring and respecting them.