A Community-University Collaborative
The Community Literacy Center is a community/university collaborative of Pittsburgh's 80-year-old Community House and the Center for the Study of Writing at Carnegie Mellon University. At the Community Literacy Center (CLC) urban teens and adults, with the support of their Carnegie Mellon student mentors, use writing and public dialogue to take action and to address the dreams and problems of our urban neighborhoods. CLC writers produce powerful texts - petitions, plans, proposals, and newsletters. Their work brings neighborhood, city, and university voices to a common table where diversity is a resource, and collaboration and writing lead to action. And at the end of each project, the writers present their documents and extend the dialogue in a public "Community Conversation" held at the CLC.
Social Action Through Writing
For many people, literacy means reading - a tool for learning and listening to instructions. But at the Community Literacy Center, literacy also means writing. Writing gives people a voice in the shaping conversations of their community. Writing lets them take action on important issues. At the CLC, we believe that writing is a source of power for the renewal of urban communities. Hands-on literacy projects bring intercultural groups to the table to work for change through collaborative planning, writing, and public dialogue.
Our vision of community literacy draws on the theoretical frameworks of both rhetoric and cognitive psychology. We see writers as problem solvers - people who are thinking their way through a cognitive and social process of making meaning. This means not only thinking critically about an issue, exploring your knowledge, and communicating your ideas, but knowing why you are writing, what others expect and think, and what you need to do to really communicate to an audience. It also means becoming reflectively aware of your own thinking, your strategies, and the social context of writing. Our work both draws on and contributes to educational research in writing and learning. We assert that the same kind of strategic, critical, and reflective literacy we teach at the University is teachable, powerful, and essential for urban students. With this stance, the CLC has emerged as an urban educator, helping people solve communiy problems through literacy action and reflection.
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