Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Committee Member

Christine Clark

Second Committee Member

Marilyn Mckinney

Third Committee Member

Steven Grubaugh

Fourth Committee Member

Rayme Cornell

Number of Pages



This study examined the early literacy experiences of Black male youth who have dropped out of school and become court involved. Specifically, it examined how these youth’s home, family and school literacy-related experiences have led them into what is known as the School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP). These experiences included their ability to glean meaning and understand literacy processes, particularly in reading and through oral language, more specifically in their interactions with school faculty and staff.

This study employed a four-pronged conceptual framework, built at the intersection of Critical Race Theory, Adolescent Development, Critical Literacy, and the STPP, in considering the existing educational research on Black male youth. Generated from this point of intersection, this study theorizes that a Literacy Confusion mediates these students’ home and school relationships in ways that incline, if not pre-dispose, them toward the STPP. Accordingly, Generative Case Study (a hybridized version of case study that also draws on grounded theory) was employed to explore the literacy experiences of six Black males in seeking understanding of how these experiences gave rise to Literacy Confusion and propelled them into the STPP.

One-on-one interviews were the primary data source used in this study, however

field notes from observations and the Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity (MIBI) survey were also used as secondary data sources. This study’s interview protocol used a base set of 28 questions to gather information in seven general areas: reading frequency, encouragement, library exposure, parent-child relationship, teacher-student relationship, peer-peer relationship, and race-based influence. The MIBI was used for two specific reasons in this study: 1) to measure Black Identity in participants, and 2) to check the accuracy of participant narratives related to race.

The six participants in this study were Kevin, Jordan, Marco, Barry, Ronnie and Isaiah. All participants in this study were between 19 and 20-years-old and resided in the Southwest United States during their interviews. All participants in this study left school voluntarily, involuntarily or as the result of a negotiation with school personnel, and were court involved within the last three years. Several themes emerged from the cross case analysis process and the extended analysis, producing both case congruencies and incongruences: Revolving Door Guardians, Incarcerated Parents, Incarceration Saving their Lives, Black Identity Development, Early Literacy Development, Good Readers, Functional Literacy, and Importance but Avoidance of Reading. Additionally, the cases will also produced four subthemes, emerging from within one or more of the themes: Boredom, Ability to Self-Advocate, Truancy, and Lack of Role Models.

This study found that although literacy skill was not an explicit factor in these Black males’ dropping out of school and becoming incarcerated, it did influence their perceptions of, and experiences in, school, primarily through their not being privy to “the why” of literacy—why literacy skill are so important to master. This study also found that literacy confusion played a significant role in these Black males’ (mis)communication with parents, teachers and school administrators.


Adolescent Development; Generative Case Study; Juvenile Justice; Literacy; Racial Identity; School-to-Prison Pipeline



File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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