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Framework for Understanding Poverty [Paperback]

Ruby K. Payne

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Book Description

January 2005
How does poverty impact learning, work habits and decision-making? People in poverty face challenges virtually unknown to those in middle class or wealth—challenges from both obvious and hidden sources. The reality of being poor brings out a survival mentality, and turns attention away from opportunities taken for granted by everyone else.

If you work with people in poverty, some understanding of how different the world is from yours will be invaluable. Whether you’re an educator —or a social, health or legal services professional—this breakthrough book gives you practical, real-world support and guidance to improve your effectiveness in working with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Since 1995 A Framework for Understanding Poverty has guided hundreds of thousands of educators and other professionals through the pitfalls and barriers faced by all classes, especially the poor. Carefully researched and packed with charts, tables, and questionnaires, Framework not only documents the facts of poverty, it provides practical yet compassionate strategies for addressing its impact on people’s lives.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: AHA! Process (January 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1929229488
  • ISBN-13: 978-1929229482
  • Product Dimensions: 26.4 x 17.8 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #191,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
To better understand students and adults from poverty, a working definition of poverty is "the extent to which an individual does without resources." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  204 reviews
103 of 111 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Middle Class Analysis of Generational Poverty April 7 2007
By Timothy Haugh - Published on Amazon.com
For a middle class reader and former teacher like myself, it is easy to like this book. There is so much that jumps out from the page to make a reader say, "I know people like that" or "I've seen that before." Still, a more considered, less emotional reading shows that Ms. Payne's analysis does have some limitations.

The strengths: I was impressed by the opening with its reference to the types of resources (of which financial are only a part) people need to break out of poverty. I was intrigued by the section on the "hidden rules" of the different classes. Equally intriguing was the section on use of the "formal" and "casual registers" in speaking. There are also a number of practical classroom techniques described in the latter part of the book.

The weaknesses: Payne did a great job of describing resources but never brought out anything useful from it. The practical examples of speaking registers seemed silly and out-of-date, lessening the impact of a useful idea though I think many teachers already take this into account even if they can't articulate it as well as Payne. Payne also has a tendency to make generalizations I'm not sure stand up across the board. In the end, though I think her analysis is useful in connecting better with parents and students stuck in generational poverty, it is less effective in understand other situations; particularly, borderline cases.

All books are impacted by the experience a reader brings to them. This one, however, even more so. For a someone deeply entrenched in the middle class, this books speaks directly to you. I think that a reader from poverty or wealth (or a middle class reader with wider experience of other classes) will hear a more sour notes in this text. Nevertheless, there is much of value here.
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These are My Students! April 6 2007
By Barbara R. Jensen - Published on Amazon.com
I teach developmental English in a community college. Unfortunately and regretably, I used to enter my classrooms with my middle-class perceptions. Heck... I am middle class. What else could I enter with? I didn't know any better. However, this book has changed my perceptions and therefore my teaching strategies and practices. I want my students to succeed. I'm addicted to student success. I live for it! Still, I just couldn't seem to get my students to think beyond the immediate present, to see a world beyond their own neighborhoods, to see that options do exist, to accept responsibility for their choices, and to stop blaming someone or something for their failures -- that's in the past - deal with what you can do and use NOW! No more "victim" mentality! Where was their motivation to strive instead of slack? Where was their motivation to go to school for something more than a financial aid check? Why did they seem addicted to their adrenalin rush of chaos followed by the crash of their roller coaster lives of happiness and then sorrow? Why were they stuck? Why was it okay to just "get by"? Overall, why weren't they like I was as a student? After reading this book, I found many of the answers I needed to help my students change their thinking -- their perceptions - their unproductive behavior -- most of all my attitudes, teaching methods, and best practices for reaching them and helping them.

In spite of my personal affinity for each student, I often felt frustrated, defeated, lost, angry, unsure of where to turn, but then I read this book. Seriously, I would advise all to turn here! Turn each page! Learn about the defeatist and survivalist mindset so many of our students enter our classes with. Learn about how to change that mindset and inspire a special and unique individual buried within that limiting shell. I am realizing that I can help do this! I can help students make this change. This book is one of the major keys to doing so!

Highly recommended!
78 of 96 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Controversial, please educate yourself before buying Nov. 28 2007
By Foodie - Published on Amazon.com
Please do a web search (google) this author and book before buying it. Many professionals are criticizing this work. I am very concerned about the table in this book that lists common behavior problems in children from poverty (poor concentration, anger, etc.) and gives reasons why, such as the child may not know adults worthy of respect or rule differences among classes. Ms. Payne does not educate the reader on other reasons why children in poverty may experience these behavior problems, such as learning and good attitudes are extremely difficult when one is tired, hungry, raging against an unjust world, worried about their own or loved ones health and safety, etc. Nor does she address that many children in poverty have limited access to items and professionals children in higher incomes take for granted, such as access to computers, internet, books, highly trained teachers, classrooms not overcrowded or access to extracurricular activities due to limited money and transportation. As Paul Gorski writes, just as we would question any book that claims how to teach/understand any "cultural group" we should also question this book. How quickly would you buy or believe a book marketed to educators titled "A Framework for Understanding...Christians, Jews, Blacks, Whites, Women, Men, etc"?
I would give this zero stars if possible.
137 of 172 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst MISUNDERSTANDING of poverty Dec 12 2007
By H. Ponthieux - Published on Amazon.com
I stumbled across this title as I was searching through university materials being taught in current education courses. As a non-profit circuit employee experienced in my own history of poverty and that of the South Louisiana/ New Orleans area, I find her ideas and presentations of the poor to be unrealistic in the least. For example, Payne cites her 3-year (at the time) marriage to her husband Frank, who grew up in poverty, as a source for her ideas and experience in poverty. She also included a list of "Could you survive in..." and lists various classes. Under wealth, she lists being able to order from menus in various languages as a staple for survival. Dr. Payne, these are not necessary for survival in the middle and upper class -- they are mainly ways of fitting in. When addressing poverty, she states one needs to know how "to use a knife as scissors" and "which churches have the best rummage sales." These reflect survival, although creating or enforcing stereotypes if not followed up with field experiences or more VALID research.
My main concern however falls on educators. Teachers and administrators alike have praised Payne's work and used it as the basis for their own understanding of poverty. PLEASE look to more salient research and prominent authorities. Too often have I overheard educators fall all over this book, despite its extreme flaws. I DO NOT recommend this title to anyone looking to learn about children or poverty. However, I do recommend Lisa Delpit, bell hooks, and the Rethinking Schools publishers for accurate information about classism, racism, and social justice in the classroom.
31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I think its worth reading Jan. 1 2006
By Jeff Hogan - Published on Amazon.com
I teach at a Title One school that is 96% minority and 98% free and reduced lunch.

While the author does make some salient points about poverty she does use stereotypes quite liberally. I am a white teacher at a school that only has two white students out of a 400 student body population.

That said, if I chose not to listen to my own students and didn't want to take the time to make home visits her book might be helpful.

It does suggest some strategies for dealing with economic differences among students. I agree with her assessment that most standardized tests are culuturally biased. I'm not going to go so far as call her a racist for her use of stereotypes -- but, I do agree with an earlier review that this falls far short of being a "framework". It is merely one teachers experience dealing with students who are less fortunate.

I do think this book should be read by teachers in Title One schools because sadly many of our Title One schools attract teachers who are unable to gain employment elsewhere. Those teachers probably do not have the desire to actually learn about the community they are teaching in and this book makes a fairly decent 'cliff notes' description of what they may expect.

In the end, any competent teacher will understand that affluent schools are going to have different problems than Title One schools.

What I don't find Dr. Payne doing is addressing the question "what happens when the children don't learn?". Sadly some teachers may see her writings as a reason not to have high expectations of their students. I am sure that is not the intended message of the book but, I can see how a person could arrive at that conclusion.

While Dr. Payne goes through the motions of arguing that poverty isn't about race -- any socially aware person knows this isn't accurate. School zones are still drawn to separate the good neighborhoods from the bad. Schools are given monies based on the property taxes in their neighborhood. You would be hard pressed to find a majority minority population school in an affluent neighborhood.

That just to say this: If you are a white teacher in a minority school I think this book is worth reading. If you are a non white teacher I think its also worth reading -- not that you will learn anything you don't know -- but, if you can look past the paternalism it is a different way of looking at the issues.

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