ILP Research



The Integrating Literacies Project recognizes that bilingual Latinx youth with few financial resources have a wealth of linguistic, cultural and social resources developed in response to the unique demands of their lived experiences. These youth have learned to navigate complex systems, perform adult responsibilities, and negotiate meaning with, and on behalf of, loved ones at an early age. Work in the Information Age and knowledge economy requires advanced abilities in communication and literacy, and the capacity to channel those abilities strategically into flexible academic and professional identities. How do the experiences of Latinx youth prepare them for these demands? This is the central concern of the Integrating Literacies Project.

This mixed-methods study employs ethnographic, case study, and survey methods to establish a definition and indicators of “advanced communication practices” grounded in youths’ lived experiences across contexts. Our focus on work, communication practices, and worker identities is the result of findings from Phase I of the Integrating Literacies Project, which was funded by the Spencer Foundation.

While our goal is to inform career development programs and instruction for Latinx youth, we recognize that minoritized youth often engage in nontraditional forms of work that are unpaid and unrecognized by dominant mainstream standards. These everyday work tasks may be in response to family or community needs, or may be individual or joint endeavors reflective of their friendship groups and personal interests. We include these contexts in our research design to capture the broadest range of young people’s abilities and identities.

Research Questions

  • What counts as “work” for young people in their workplaces, classrooms, and communities?
  • What advanced language and literacy practices do Latinx youth mobilize as they engage in this work? 
  • What kinds of work and worker identities correspond with Latinx youths’ uses of advanced language and literacy practices, and the leveraging of these practices across contexts and communities?

Theories and Literatures Informing this Work

Our framework draws from theories of lifespan language socialization, communities of practice, and positional identities. Literatures that inform this work include prior research in these areas:

  • Language repertoires of bilingual youth in everyday and academic settings (leveraging, translanguaging, brokering, interpreting)
  • School-based notions of “academic” language and literacies
  • Adolescent literacies (including digital and multimodal)
  • Workplace communication practices and literacies (including industry publications on 21st century skills and skills gap concerns)


The aim of the Integrating Literacies Project is to support secondary schools and youth workforce development programs that serve multilingual youth and youth of color by developing (a) tools to identify youths’ advanced communication abilities in the workplace, classroom, and community, and (b) context-specific materials to help educators and workplace mentors guide youth in leveraging these skills for academic and workplace success.

We apply our expertise in the advanced language abilities of bilingual Latinx youth and the unique language and literacy requirements of the knowledge economy to our involvement in a Sacramento high school’s work study program. We are already shaping professional development for work study supervisors and work study curricula for more than 380 youth of color. Our next phase will expand to young people’s classrooms and communities to inform asset-based approaches to the career development of minoritized youth in other settings.


Phase I of the Integrating Literacies Project was supported by funding from the Spencer Foundation. 

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