Elizabeth Birr Moje
Making "Makin' It" Possible

The Making “Makin’ It” Possible study, funded by the William T. Grant Foundation, takes its title from Jay McLeod’s ethnography of the aspirations and attainment of young men from different racial and socioeconomic groups, some of whom concluded as they struggled through life that their lives could be represented by the phrase, “Ain’t no makin’ it.” Inspired by McLeod’s analysis and my own past research (e.g., Moje, 2000), this study examines the existing social spaces of marginalized youth in southwest Detroit in an attempt to develop ways to encourage students to carve out new public spaces. Although geared toward encouraging the development of a critical awareness and a sense of collective struggle, the project does not subscribe to deterministic views of social reproduction that could suggest that young people should abdicate their responsibilities because they are oppressed by social systems. Nor do I locate primary responsibility for failure in the practices and beliefs of the marginalized groups. Instead, I hope to document ways that teachers, parents, and community workers can help adolescents come to know themselves and understand that selves are always constructed and live in relation to others.

To that end, I am replicating and extending my prior research on adolescents’ literacy perspectives and practices both in and out of school, studying school classrooms and after/out-of-school community programs that provide opportunities for young people to make it in school, and beginning to develop structures that support adolescents as they construct identities and decide for themselves what “makin’ it” means and how to accomplish their goals. My research will revolve around adolescents’ and teachers’ uses of literacy and sense of self, identity, and culture as tools for developing awareness and taking action. In particular, I hope to study literacy practices that foster critical, social, and self-awareness, develop a positive sense of collective struggle, provide opportunities for engaging in action and helpfulness, and teach young people how to use literacy as tools for change.

Annual Reports


Powerpoint Presentations

Moje, E. B. (June 2005). Making "Makin' It" Possible: Developing Critical Literacy William T, Grant Scholars Retreat



Related Book Chapters

Moje, E. B., & Hinchman, K. (2004). Culturally responsive practices for youth literacy learning. In J. Dole & T. Jetton (Eds.), Adolescent literacy research and practice (pp. 331-350). New York : Guilford Press.

Young, J.P., Dillon, D. R., & Moje, E. B. (2002). Shape-shifting portfolio youth: millennials, literacies, and the game of life. In D. E. Alvermann, (ed.), Adolescents’ multiliteracies in a digital world (pp. 114-131). New York : Peter Lang.


Related Journal Articles

Moje, E. B., McIntosh Ciechanowski, K., Kramer, K., Ellis, L., Carrillo, R., & Collazo, T. (2004). Working toward third space in content area literacy: An examination of everyday funds of knowledge and discourse. Reading Research Quarterly, 39(1), 38-71.

Lewis, C., & Moje, E. B. (2004). Sociocultural perspectives meets critical theory: Producing knowledge through multiple frameworks. The International Journal of Learning, 10.

Moje, E.B., & Sutherland, L. M. (2003). The future of literacy teacher education. English Education, 149-164.

Moje, E. B. (2002). But where are the youth? Integrating youth culture into literacy theory. Educational Theory, 52, 97-120.

McCarthey, S. and Moje, E. B. (2002). Identity matters. Reading Research Quarterly, 37, 228-237.

Moje, E. B. (2002). Re-framing adolescent literacy research for new times: Studying youth as a resource. Reading Research and Instruction, 41, 207-224.

Moje, E. B. (2000). Circles of kinship, friendship, position, and power: Examining the community in community-based literacy research. Journal of Literacy Research, 32, 77-112.