Saturday, August 04, 2007

Re-reading reading

I’m nearly through with the revised version of ‘Early Reading Development’ and have been quite struck with what’s different now, eight or nine years down the line since I first wrote the chapter. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all I’ve spent the intervening years trying to convince people that literacy is changing! But first, something that seems fairly enduring – and that’s the discourse around early literacy. Professional sources, research and curricula work together to privilege storybook reading. It’s not surprising that research shows the beneficial effects of book reading when success is determined by school routines that value the same thing. Meanwhile, literacy practices are probably more diverse than ever before. The intersection of varied cultural and technological resources accounts for this diversification. Interestingly, though, official discourse on literacy weighs in heavily on early reading and particularly with the small-part phonics industry – almost, one might suppose to lock down diversity and fluidity. This speaks to the idea of early innoculation in print literacy, so powerfully argued by Luke and Luke here. The net effect of this is that there is insufficient material to fully illustrate alternative models of reading development. I feel the best I can do is set up a dialogue between old literacy and new literacy in this area.


  1. Yes, it's interesting...and difficult for pre-service teachers to grasp the sheer complexity of the skills, knowledge and understanding required to navigate and produce texts in the digital age. Children still need to be confident with the alphabetic principle but there is so much else they not surprising you found the chapter challenging to write apart from the fact that there is so little out there on early reading that isn't focused on phonics and storybooks. The UKLA 'Reading on Screen' report is out, have you seen it?

  2. Presumably though it shouldn't be 'difficult for pre-service teachers to grasp the sheer complexity of the skills, knowledge and understanding required to navigate and produce texts in the digital age.' because a lot of them will be insiders. So we need a more nuanced account of how everyday digital practices get neglected (dominant discourses etc) - this is what Cathy Burnett's getting at in her research. As for the UKLA report, 'out' is an interesting's not on our website or is it just paper-based??

  3. Its paper based, not on web yet, ironically! Even if students are insiders, I still think doing a practice is different from understanding its early acquisition and related pedagogy. Things are so much more demanding now for students than when you first wrote the chapter, I would argue,even if we agree texts have always been multimodal, and we don't even yet fully understand some areas let alone how to support early learning in them (e.g. 'grammar' of moving image). Cathy's UKLA paper was excellent, do let us know when it's out.

  4. I couldn't agree more about the difference between personal practice and pedagogy - this applies to old literacies, and many other schooled practices, too. Things are more demanding for student teachers now, just when it would be good for them to have the autonomy to experiment with new media. Unfortunately training establishments tend to model technology-as-control through the usof VLEs and e-portfolios. The big question for me, is how we encourage students and young teachers to 'take risks' - not that they really are risks, but that's how they appear.


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