Reciprocal Literacy Sponsorship in Service-Learning Settings

Kara Poe Alexander


Much of the research on literacy sponsorship positions students as “sponsored” rather than “sponsor,” which promotes a view of sponsorship as a one-way, fixed endeavor. In this essay, I consider how, in the context of service-learning, students might sponsor literacy and how this literacy sponsorship has the potential to be reciprocal. I highlight a semester-long course project that aimed to develop a variety of literacies in students. Results show that students supported, enabled, and sponsored the literacies of the clients with whom they worked. Findings also reveal that this literacy sponsorship was reciprocated by the clients, which indicates that, at least in service-learning settings, literacy sponsorship functions as a dynamic, reciprocal process where both parties learn and grow through their relationship with each other. This research is significant because it brings students into the discussion on literacy sponsorship and shows how individuals can seize the literacy resources offered to meet their own goals, motivations, and needs.


literacy sponsor; service-learning; multiliteracies; composition pedagogy; social change

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