Manufacturing descent: Basal readers and the creation of reading failures

Patrick Shannon, Patricia Crawford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


There are many definitions of literacy and many kinds of literacies. However, the basal reading programs in use in most American elementary schools value particular literacy practices. This article describes how basal readers, by defining literacy in a particular way, manufacture reading failures among students from less privileged economic and social backgrounds, students especially likely to come to the attention of special and remedial educators. We explain how certain literacy practices came to be valued over others by briefly reviewing the history of reading instruction in the United States. We conclude with a call for educators to speak out against reading practices that protect the privilege of the upper and upper‐middle classes by encoding their values and intentions into school reading practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-245
Number of pages19
JournalReading and Writing Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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