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
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.
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
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,
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
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.