Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 17

Accepted Abstracts

Kahani Literacy Project: Culturally Efficacious Story Writing

Kalpana Mukunda Iyengar, University of Texas - San Antonio (United States)

Howard L. Smith, University of Texas - San Antonio (United States)


This article describes a literacy approach for teaching Cultural Rhetorical Knowledge (TCRK). A review of traditional curricula for literacy and the Language Arts indicates a paucity of focus and opportunities for diasporic Asian Indian American children to learn about their heritage culture to an appreciable degree. The first author conceptualized and designed the Kahani Project model (i.e., a multimodal, multilingual literacy experience centered on the Indic cultures), to enable young writers to create within a habitus that privileged and honored the epistemologies and perspectives of India. Thematic analysis of the Kahani narratives demonstrated the students’ appreciation and deepened understandings of heritage culture and practices. It was posited that the opportunity for students to engage with ideas from home, in a pedagogic space without fear of disparagement, would foster respect. As the Funds of Knowledge (Moll, et al., 1992) are recognized and incorporated into literacy instruction, the adolescent writer acquires TCRK. This culturally grounded literacy instruction fosters heightened creativity and contributes to the development of a healthy ethnic identity. As students engage in dialogic conferencing, reading and writing experiences that accept, value, and or venerate the cultural practices of India, they acquire a perspective of their heritage that enables them to resist the debilitating effects of assimilation and anomie (Durkheim, 1972).

Keywords: Anomie, Diasporic Asian Indian American, Literacy, Teaching Cultural Rhetorical Knowledge, Reader Response Theory


  • Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into practice, 31(2), 132-141.
  • Durkheim, E. (1972). Emile Durkheim: selected writings. Cambridge University Press.

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