Literacy as social practice in ECE: An overview

Introduction

This paper was prepared by Mary Jane Shuker and Jayne White

Biography

Mary Jane Shuker and Jayne White are senior lecturers at Victoria University of Wellington Faculty of Education. They teach both undergraduate and post-graduate courses that focus on young children's written, oral and visual literacies (Mary Jane), and assessment, evaluation and toddler pedagogy (Jayne).

Literacy as Social Practice

Girls at Computer.

Computers are one example of a literacy tool children have ready access to in contemporary society. How is the computer used in the child's world? At home? At the supermarket? In the library? At a parent workplace?

Questions about literacy and what it means to be literate have been frequently confined to reading and writing. The recent impact of new technologies and globalisation, however, has meant that children now experience a large variety of literacy experiences that extend beyond traditional texts1. The term ‘multiliteracies’ is now frequently used and indicates that teachers have moved past thinking about literacy as a narrow skill-based model of learning to read and write (often described in early childhood education as 'pre-reading' and 'pre-writing').

In using the term multiliteracies teachers are able to acknowledge the significance of children's unique cultural and social skills, knowledge and understandings in becoming literate in today’s culture. This means going way beyond the traditional tasks of reading and writing. Literacy practices now recognise that the attitudes, feelings, expectations, value and beliefs of children, their families, teachers, and members of the wider community play an important role in the literacy process2. This involves an increased awareness of the wider world, and the tools that are at the disposal of children when they learn.

1 Jones Diaz, C. (2007). Literacy as social practice. In L. Makin, C. Jones Diaz, and C. McLachlan (Eds.), Literacies in Childhood. Changing views, challenging practice (pp31-42) (2nd ed.). Sydney: MacLennan and Petty.
2 Hill, S. (2007). Multiliteracies: Towards the future. In L. Makin, C. Jones Diaz, and C. McLachlan (Eds.), Literacies in Childhood. Changing views, challenging practice (pp56-70) (2nd ed.). Sydney: MacLennan and Petty


Last updated: 1 March 2010