Multimodal Text Sets and Pop Culture in School

Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson, AZ

This week we will take you on a virtual tour of the Magee Middle School library with the library assistant, Miss. Brittany Butler. We hope you click the YouTube link and enjoy the virtual library tour at Magee Middle school.

Walt Disney and Approaching 100 Years of Literature Through Books in each Decade

As Miss Butler introduced in her virtual tour, #100YearsofLiterature is an exciting project that she and her student staff have accomplished this school year. This project invites students to experience the exploration of how reading has been changed from the 1920s to 2020 through a gallery structure. Each decade is decorated with different visual references to exhibit how the changes affected people’s lives and their literacy practices. Each decade showcases milestone events, untold fun facts, historical artifacts, social media and literature. Walt Disney is one of the highlighted examples that was highly influential in media and literature in American society in the 1950s.

The library displays text sets that include multimodal and graphical texts by a decade. Such a text set display works great for students’ intertextual thinking (de Beaugrande, 1980). For example, in the 1980s, we see two classic works of literature, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1986) and Scary Stories More Tales to Chill Your Bones (1991). Miss Butler mentioned that many of her students were already familiar with the films, but most of them don’t know that the films were adapted from the books. Learning that movie originated from those books motivates them to read the original books and have discussions of the films drawing intertextual connections.

Interview of Miss Butler’s Philosophy About School Library

Brittany ButlerIn the same decade, Miss Butler displays Stranger Things branded classics Coke cans and The Stranger Things Field Guide (2018). Stranger Things is a science fiction horror web TV series released on Netflix. The story takes place in a fictional rural town in Indiana in the 1980s and coming–of–age teen buddies investigate supernatural events and a mysterious government project. Miss Butler mentioned that the Coke cans and the book motivates students to share responses to the story of Stranger Things. They explore 80’s popular trends in pop culture, lifestyles, and books in the 80’s. Having such discussions provokes students’ curiosity and it leads to them reading texts published in the 1980s to learn more about the decade.

Junko asked Miss Butler the role of pop culture and social media in this library and Library Fun Friday that she schedules on Friday for students.

JUNKO: What is the role of pop culture and social media in this library?

MISS BUTLER: The written word is what fuels our world now as we edge more toward technology all the time. Even though we might not be sitting with a book, those books are what help us to build the technology we utilize every day. For me, pop culture helps me to bring in what they already know and then we’re about to go from there to find out where we need to move forward to help bring them back to a place where they feel comfortable with a book. A lot of times, it’s not that they hate it. It’s that they’ve been told they can’t.

JUNKO: What do students do on Library–Fun–Friday?

MISS BUTLER: For Library-Fun-Friday, they do not have to participate. It’s not mandatory. I’ll have different little things, like showing them videos of some of my favorite artists. I’m a huge Pentatonix fan, so we bridge the link between the history of music and A Capella. A student asks, “What is A Capella music?” I will turn to a book that we have if they’re interested in the history of music. What Library Fun Friday does for me as a librarian, as a teacher, it makes me not this person above them. I want to open up their minds beyond the shelves, and then how the shelves do integrate into what we do.

Popular Culture and History

Pop culture and social media play an important role in the middle graders’ literacy practices. Every historical corner had popular culture even though popular culture has been treated as second class to classic literature and a less valued subject in traditional settings of schools and educational. Perhaps the first step for us to take is questioning how we think of popular culture in school. For teenagers, popular culture is an important part of their identity and everyday life. Whether it was the 40’s or 50’s, or 60’s, young people and popular culture was inseparable. It is the same in today’s world. Text sets including pop culture, media and literature would be a great way to activate digital space, which many of the (digital) native speakers feel comfortable in, and their existences are validated. Perhaps the distance between books and reluctant printed–texts readers (RPR) can be shortened when we acknowledge the directionality of digital native speakers’ migrating journey to the other side of the world where books are read without batteries. We can share such print–based joy with our digital native speakers soon!


Bailey, N., & Constantinesco, P. (2018). The Stranger Things field guide.Australia: Smith Street Books.

De Beaugrande, R. (1980). Text, discourse and process.London: Longman.

Schwartz, A. (1986). More scary stories to tell in the dark.Harper Trophy.

Schwartz, A., & Gammell, S. (1991). Scary stories mote tales to chill your bones.

Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To view our complete offerings of WOW Currents, please visit archival stream.

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