A Rhizomatic Exploration of Adolescent Girls’ Rough-and-Tumble Play as Embodied Literacy

  • Julie Anne Work-Slivka
Keywords: youth-centered play, rhizomatic approach, rough-and-tumble play, girls


As a teacher-researcher in a public charter middle school in the northeast United States, I simultaneously led a sixteen-month qualitative study and hosted an after-school beading class to investigate a group of adolescent girls’ self-selected, spontaneous intersections of literacy, play, and art. Between two and eight eleven- to thirteen-year-old girls agreed to participate in each meeting. Drawing on case study methods, I worked flexibly through participant observation to support adolescents with their self-selected projects, I video recorded this activity, and then I analyzed the resulting data using a rhizomatic approach in order to identify intense moments of affect. While play continuance seemed to be the girls’ main objective, they also voluntarily engaged in academic literacy activities that supported play. Further, rough-and-tumble play offered the girls opportunities to engage in low-risk heterosexual/heteronormative role play, unintentionally rupturing expectations of female passivity and pursuing positive affects as additional rewards of play. This study demonstrates how youth-centered play can provide access points to child-driven academic and embodied literacies.


DOI: 10.1353/jeu.2017.0011

Author Biography

Julie Anne Work-Slivka

Julie Anne Work-Slivka is an independent researcher and adjunct instructor at the State University of New York (SUNY), New Paltz. Previously, she was a public school literacy educator. Her research follows intersectionalities of affect theory, embodied literacies, play, and art. She has presented papers at the International Conference of The Association for the Study of Play (TASP), the Ethnographic & Qualitative Research Conference (EQRC) and the National Art Education Association (NAEA). Julie edits manuscripts for the Michigan Reading Journal. She enjoys healthful cooking, spending time with her husband, Kevin, caring for their newborn son, Michael, and hiking with their rescue dog, Moxie.

How to Cite
Work-Slivka, J. A. (2017). A Rhizomatic Exploration of Adolescent Girls’ Rough-and-Tumble Play as Embodied Literacy. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 9(1). Retrieved from http://jeunessejournal.ca/index.php/yptc/article/view/352