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Imagined innocence meets lived experience

Sarah C. Lightner (Department of Literacy, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal for Multicultural Education

ISSN: 2053-535X

Article publication date: 18 August 2021

Issue publication date: 11 October 2021




The purpose of this study was to challenge pre-service teachers’ (PSTs) assumptions about youth readers, the researcher in this study invited a group of three seventh-grade students to attend a multicultural young adult (YA) literature class designed for PSTs at a large mid-western university.


Using qualitative methodology, the researcher strove to answer the following question: How can instructors use youth literature and teaching practices to shift the way that youth readers are perceived – especially marginalized youth – within educational institutions? Data sources included participant observation and field notes, semi-structured interviews with participating seventh-grade students, discussion artifacts, lesson plans and discussion transcripts.


The author found that the seventh-grade students in this study shared intertextual connections and offered critical readings of text and the world that had the potential to challenge PSTs’ notions of how YA literature can, and should, be used in classrooms. Importantly, the adolescent students were also able to see themselves as competent participants in collegiate dialogue around texts.


Much research has been done on the value of giving PSTs experiences in school field experiences, but this research highlights the power of interactions between adolescents and PSTs in a university classroom.



The author thank Dr Karly Marie Grice (University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire), for opening up her classroom to my 7th grade students and for providing substantial support and assistance in the conceptualization of this manuscript.


Lightner, S.C. (2021), "Imagined innocence meets lived experience", Journal for Multicultural Education, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 270-281.



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