Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


Early Childhood Education

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

L. Kathryn Sharp

Committee Members

Carol M. Trivette, Rosemerry Geiken


America has no majority race in the population of five-year-olds and younger (Wazwaz, 2015). Our society struggles to manage the changing face of America as seen in riots, protests, racially-motivated comments, and bullying to name a few examples. Students also face great difficulty reading and discerning what is factual and determining credible sources in the digital age. Critical literacy has the potential to teach students about their changing world, tolerance and acceptance of others, and how to read critically through literature with controversial topics. This explanatory sequential mixed-methods research examined 156 East Tennessee early childhood teachers’ (ECED) perceptions, knowledge, practices, and resources of critical literacy, differences between ECED majors and elementary education majors, and lower ECED (Pre-K-1) and higher ECED (2nd-3rd grade) teachers in their perceptions, knowledge, practices, and resources of critical literacy.. A four-point Likert scale survey was emailed to early childhood teachers in six upper East Tennessee school districts to collect quantitative data. Comparisons were made between the ECED and elementary education majors and the lower and higher ECED groups using MANOVAS, ANOVAS, and t tests. No statistically significant differences were found. The survey was followed by qualitative interviews with 5 volunteers from the quantitative study who answered specific protocol questions regarding critical literacy. Grounded theory also determined emergent themes of environment, parent support, ranking of topics, personal beliefs, and contradictions. This research found that although some teachers are unfamiliar with critical literacy, there is a desire to implement some of its practices. However, more book resources are needed as well as support from parents and administration. Teachers in this sample demonstrated that they are not comfortable with disrupting the commonplace thinking which includes topics such as same-sex relationships. Suggestions for future research, potential training, and professional development are included.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.