Theorizing Vitality in the Literacy Classroom

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31 Scopus citations


The author introduces the concept of vitality and its relation to affect. Stern defined vitality as the feeling of flow and aliveness. The author drew on research from literacy, curriculum theory, and the work of Stern to argue for the value of the concept of vitality for thinking about how literacy comes to feel vital. The author argues that researchers and teachers need to attend to students’ embodied expressions of vitality. These forms of vitality communicate the energy of a given classroom event. The author highlights Stern’s conceptualization of affect attunement—the ability of one party to share the subjective state of the other party transmitted through polymodal matching of vitality forms—as giving rise to and carrying vitality. Central to Stern’s work is that most affect attunement occurs out of conscious awareness, as the body is affected through multiple registers, in its psychobiological rhythms, in multisensory dynamic flow, and in the dynamic shifts and patterns of the body in movement in and out of constantly emergent assemblages. The author argues that in literacy research and teaching, conscious, language-based learning has been overvalued. Contending that students’ embodied identities create differences in how their expressions of vitality are received in classrooms, the author concludes by arguing for vitality rights: the basic rights of all students to experience themselves as vital members of a classroom community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-221
Number of pages15
JournalReading Research Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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