My initial thought that ‘Critical Literacy’ was simply someone’s opinion of a book has now been challenged. Critical literacy allows a reader to draw on their own knowledge while considering the perspectives of others. It is an essential skill needed to understand how as readers and listeners we are positioned through the power of the text. Critical literacy enables us to consider other views while forming our own (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday, 2010). Critical literacy also includes visual literacy; illustrations in a picture book (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday, 2010). When communicating with people, we select the most effective and efficient signs to get the message across. Authors do the same with their books (Rowan, 2001).
“The Short and Incredible Happy Life of Riley” written by Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat (2006) is a story told by a rat who compares his needs to human needs. Both the language and illustrations used position the reader and listener, providing them with the opportunity to think about their lifestyles, beliefs and values.
The language used for the humans is a busy long string of words while rat uses short simple descriptions of his needs, positioning the reader to question the lifestyles of each, comparing and evaluating their own. One example of language choice is: “All Riley wanted was a little stick with a pointy end………. People of course, want more than that. They want microwave-video-dvd-sms-internet-big car…………..” (Thompson & Lissiat, 2006).
The authors deliberately chose how to represent the characters using both words and illustrations, showing the rats life to be simple and enjoyable while the humans greedy and unhealthy. Human ‘needs’ are outweighed heavily by ‘wants’ in this book. The author may be using the rat to represent the working class society of humans, comparing them to upper class human society. Thompson and Lissiat in “The Short and Incredible Happy Life of Riley” (2006) persuade the reader to appreciate the simple life, to slow down and to stop wanting all the mod cons. This book gives readers the opportunity to evaluate their lifestyles, question their needs and wants and consequently help themselves and the environment to make for a brighter future.
“I Want My Hat Back” written by Jon Klassen (2011) is about a large animal, perhaps a bear, who questions various small animals to the whereabouts of his hat, concluding with the consequence for the thief. The illustrations are essential for readers, representing who has the missing hat. This book could tell a different story for every reader because every reader fills in the ending in their own way. I had to read the story twice before I came to the conclusion that the larger animal ate the rabbit as punishment. This book positions the reader to either agree on the final punishment, the rabbit being eaten or feel the rabbit’s punishment was extreme. Klassen (2011) uses the illustrations and simple text to influence the reader that thieves need to be punished. The individual readers own knowledge and opinion will critically influence their view.
“How can you imagine anything if the images are always there” (Critical Literacy, Media Literacy, and the Importance of Reading- Detachment (2011) Scene)
Critical Literacy, Media Literacy, and the Importance of Reading- Detachment (2011) Scene. As retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2v-WcOVAfg
Fishpond. (Image). Retrieved January 1st 2014, from: http://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/Short-and-Incredibly-Happy-Life-of-Riley-Colin-Thompson-Amy-Lissiat-Illustrated-by/9781933605500
Klassen, J. (2011). I want my hat back. London, England: Walker Books.
Nucleus. (Images). Retrieved January 1st 2014, from: http://www.gallerynucleus.com/gallery/exhibition/324
Rowan, L. (2001). Write me in. Inclusive texts in the primary classroom. Newtown, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association.
Thompson, C. & Lissiat, A. (2006). The short and incredibly happy life of riley. South Melbourne, Victoria: Lothian Books.
Winch, G., Johnston, R.R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L. & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing & children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.