Digital Sports Media Literacy

One constant in literacy education across the decades has been that individuals read more and with greater degrees of engagement when they’re interested in the topics at hand. Smith and Wilhelm acknowledged this in their iconic study of boys (2002).  The young adult author Jon Scieszka (2013) writes that, “As a society, we teach boys to suppress feelings. Boys aren’t practiced and often don’t feel comfortable exploring the emotions and feelings found in fiction.”

Another area of literacy engagement transcends generations:  boys will read about sports.  A boy whose eyes glaze over when presented with rich literature like The Great Gatsby or Wuthering Heights will grab his Smart phone as soon as a flash comes in about the latest major league baseball (hockey/ football/ basketball) revelation.  Sure, those waves of sound bites are ephemeral glimpses into an idealized world in which adults play children’s games, but, also, such texts present scenarios about real-world ethical dilemmas, career-ending injuries, and salary cap decisions.  The players are the heroes of narratives, and athletes’ crises of confidence offer glimpses into adult disappointment and resilience.  Many sports stars lack redemptive value, which is instructive in itself. Sport texts, due to their multimodal nature, present fascinating opportunities for males (and a growing number of females, like me) to enhance youth literacy.[1]

Through sport, media and digital analysis and composing can build on traditional literacy skills by conferring the ability to assess, evaluate, analyze, and communicate textually (NAMLE, 2013). Youth can draw upon the digital and media non-fiction sports topics and texts they love to gain new skills and structures for literacy, learning, and life.


[1] Modes are organized sets of resources that help us make meaning; they are cultural work that become representative of deeper signification due to their cultural frequency of use, and they now replace what had once been called “grammars” (Jewitt & Kress, 2003, p. 1).