Adult Learning Center
(Funder: Commission on Adult Basic Education)

WREAD is a thematic reading discussion group geared toward female adult literacy learners with self-defined histories of trauma. Using Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, as well as other texts, media, and cultural trips related to its themes, the goal of WREAD is to help women in the group (a) improve their reading skills, (b) gain insight regarding their own traumatic pasts and (c) cultivate supportive group relationships. WREAD integrates critical literacy, feminist, and relational cultural theory to provide a supportive, academic structure that utilizes the group process to support learning and recovery from trauma.

At the start and end of the 12-week intervention period, group members’ reading level and perceptions of their past traumatic events were evaluated using standardized measures (TABE and “Feelings Survey”). They participated in semi-structured interviews before and after the conclusion of the group to reflect on the impact of the group in relation to their reading ability, perceptions of their traumatic experiences, and
their relationships in the group.

WREAD's findings provide support for an adult literacy/education instructional framework that explicitly acknowledges how collective and personal traumas shape the experiences of women of color. By creating opportunities for community-building, and engagement with texts that motivate learners to build content knowledge and theorize from experience, a distinctive vision of adult education linking critical literacy and social change practices was cultivated. Emotionally responsive spaces like WREAD facilitate the creation of deeply meaningful support networks as well. Describing her experience, one participant remarked: “[The other women] took me through my journey as if they were part of my family.”

The implementation of the Common Core standards in the adult education field has heightened the emphasis on strategies that help adult learners become “college and career ready.”  WREAD is aligned with this focus and also illustrates how Common Core Standards can be utilized in student-centered, emotionally responsive contexts.

Related activity:

  • Jones, J. (2016). “We’re all on the same journey, but [are taking] different paths:” Relational connection, critical consciousness and visions of possibility among female adult literacy learners.  Paper presented at the Adult Education Research Conference (AERC), Charlotte, NC.

  • Jones, J. & Ramdeholl, D. (2014). Weaving quilts: Remaking and reimagining women’s spaces and places in adult literacy. Paper presented at the Adult Education Research Conference, New York, NY.