A “reading” refers to what we believe the text means; textual meaning is always dependent on context. A reader situated in a cultural context other than the one in which the text was written may find meaning the writer did not intend. Many texts reflect the dominant culture and send the message that most people are heterosexual, Christian, white, perhaps male, and that this is the default point of view. Scholars refer to this as privileging or foregrounding. By resisting the push to read through this dominant view, students learn to push back against these assumptions. This strategy adds the experiences of less represented individuals and groups into the textual discourse.
Resistant Reading combines analysis, synthesis, evaluation and creation. It also develops and assesses comprehension, as students must understand the text to successfully engage in an alternative reading.
- Choose a Perspectives text. Read the text aloud while students follow along.
- Assess students’ understanding of the text. Resistant readings must come after students achieve foundational comprehension. Shared Reading and Challenge the Text provide strong comprehension strategies to lead up to Resistant Reading. Those strategies might include asking students to:
- Answer questions about who, what, where, when, why and how
- Retell the story with details
- Determine the text's main topic or central message
- Describe characters, the setting and major events
- Identify who is telling the story
- Explain how the illustrations provide information about what is happening in the text
- Familiarize students with two ways of interpreting texts: dominant and resistant.
- Dominant Reading: Dominant readings are the most common and widely accepted interpretations of a text. They embody the dominant values and beliefs in a culture and position the reader to favor that interpretation. Young children are typically taught to accept dominant readings at face value. For example they are asked, “What is the author’s main idea?” as if there is only one possible response.
- Resistant Reading: Resistant readings reject dominant tendencies and interpretations. Readers reposition themselves in relation to the text by taking on an unrepresented position or voice.
- Illustrate the three interpretations. A familiar story like Little Red Riding Hood works well for this modeling exercise. Remind students that while the resistant interpretations are clearly not how we were meant to read Little Red Riding Hood, these alternatives make sense when the story is read closely.
- Challenge students to produce alternative and resistant readings of the Perspectives central text. During initial modeling, choose the “lens” for reading based on the lesson objective and the textual themes. Allow students to practice using a lens that they find meaningful.
English language learners
Resistant reading is most appropriate for highly proficient English language learners. Be sure to explain that “resist” means to push back against the way in which a text is usually read. The concepts of dominant, negotiated and oppositional reading will also need proper explanation and scaffolding. Work with one concept at a time if necessary.
Connection to anti-bias education
Resistant reading has strong connections to anti-bias and social justice education. Students not only “try on other people’s eyes” when they engage in resistant reading, they also learn to read with an awareness of power. Interpreting texts in this way helps students understand the social construction of knowledge and empowers them to question dominant beliefs and perspectives.