Teachers and Caregivers Talking about Literacy Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

In line with the ever-evolving societal changes that face people on a daily basis, I've come to expect that literacy development will also evolve. This is necessary to accommodate the growing multiliteracies that students will need to acquire in order to be active members of a given community. It is understandable, then, that as new literacies develop a school community would share varying understandings and expectations of literacy education. As studies in this area show, times of transition within school communities often result in confusion and discord as to how best to facilitate meaningful literacy development (Carrington & Luke, 2003; Tekin & Tekin, 2006; Whitehouse & Colvin, 2001).

To gain better insight into the current understandings of literacy and literacy education, one must first begin with an inquiry into the different perspectives of literacy and literacy development that are present with a given school community. This will begin to answer some general questions about how literacy is understood within that community: What is literacy? How can we recognise if someone is literate? What do we read?

Literacy is not what it used to be ...

Once defined as the ability to read and write, the term literacy has now developed into a broader concept that no longer focuses on written language alone. Literacy is now understood as a plural set of social practices that encompass a vast range of strategies used to construct meaning within a given sociocultural context (Anstey, 2002; Bull, 2002; Gee, 2008; Locke, 2004; Perez, 2004, Walker-Gibbs, 2004). There is also a heightened awareness that texts are constructed with a particular social, cultural, political or economic purpose, that individuals draw upon previous experiences and literacy events in order to comprehend and process text, and most prominent is the understanding that continuing changes in society and technology will continue to mould and change texts and the various ways texts are presented to the public (Anstey, 2002). Therefore, to be literate in today's global community requires an individual to consider a broader range of signs and symbols when reading and writing a text in order to cope with the barrage of multimodal texts and literacy events and to interact appropriately according to the parameters of the social or cultural community (Anstey; 2002; Gee, 2008; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2012; Perez, 2004).

The transformation of the global and technological community has inevitably filtered down into the education system, modifying the approaches to literacy learning and its facilitation. One of the most significant considerations in literacy education is grounded in the understanding that the literacy skills and practices children acquire within their own community are extensive and vary greatly from child to child. These should be taken into consideration by educators when facilitating the literacy development of a student (Carrington & Luke, 2003; Garrity, 2007; Gonzales, Moll, & Amanti, 2005; Thomson, 2002). It is no wonder, then, that children who have grown up in diverse social, cultural and technological environments are entering school with a broad continuum that Gonzalez, Moll and Amanti (2005) refer to as 'funds of knowledge', essentially the literacy experiences and strategies that a child has learned to navigate their home community prior to entering school. Thomson's (2002) notion of the 'virtual schoolbag' is not unlike the concept of 'funds of knowledge', in that children enter school with a swag of diverse literacy strategies. This virtual schoolbag is packed full of a child's literacy events and practices that are based on their social, cultural and language backgrounds (Thomson, 2002).

Literacy at school and at home

The increasing diversity of literacies has made me wonder what happens when members of the school and its community have varying expectations of literacy education, and which experiences should be considered valuable school practices (Carrington & Luke, 2003; Heath, 1986; Whitehouse & Colvin, 2001). …