Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Examining Preadolescent Children's Engagement in Out-of-School Literacy and Exploring Opportunities for Supporting Literacy Development

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Examining Preadolescent Children's Engagement in Out-of-School Literacy and Exploring Opportunities for Supporting Literacy Development

Article excerpt

Definitions of literacy have evolved considerably in recent decades to include not only the practices of reading and writing printed texts but also a wide range of digital and interpersonal practices. Current definitions from both the Australian and New Zealand curricula recognise literacy as incorporating knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions (Australian Curriculum, 2017; Ministry of Education, 2007). Literacy practices are described as encompassing multiple formats including listening, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and the creation of oral, print, visual and digital texts. Literacy is described as a tool to understand and interact with the wider world, as well as a set of dispositions and behaviour that incorporates learners' motivation and engagement in using their skills to participate across school, community and wider social contexts.

These broadly encompassing definitions arose out of the impact of rapidly changing technology on communication practices as well as the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity at the local level and greater global connectedness (New London Group, 1996). The discourse of a globalised knowledge economy has become firmly entrenched in education and the wider public sphere (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear & Leu, 2008; Davies & Merchant, 2014). These discourses have brought a greater regard for developing cognitive skills such as strategic thinking, creativity and self-directed learning alongside a range of social and emotional skills that enable individuals to communicate and collaborate on shared goals within and across culturally diverse societies (Carrington & Dowdall, 2013). To become literate in the 21st century, individuals need to be able to: navigate and comprehend multimodal texts, critically analyse texts within sociocultural and political contexts, and participate in the exchange of information and ideas across multiple boundaries within a global environment (Coiro et al., 2008; Hall, Cremin, Comber & Moll, 2013).

Educational policy in Australia and New Zealand is influenced by these international trends as well as the move toward greater teacher accountability and assessment of achievement. Over the last decade, both countries have introduced national standards used to assess individual students' skills in literacy. Today's teachers face the task of fostering the development of students' 21st century literacies within the context of evolving technologies, while simultaneously demonstrating greater accountability to parents and the education system. Pressures from accountability of a tightly prescriptive curriculum and increasing assessment has led to greater use of standardised instructional approaches and focus on basic skill development rather than adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of the learner (Comber, Woods & Grant, 2017).

Within this environment, teachers are seeking strategies to support children's literacy development. Book reading, in- and out-of-school, is a commonly used strategy to support children's literacy. The amount of leisure reading children engage in significantly contributes toward academic reading achievement (Mol & Bus, 2011; Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2017) and it is this reading mileage effect that has underpinned traditional literacy promotion efforts by educators and librarians. It has been theorised that, if children read enough, they will develop the fluency that allows them to read with ease, which in turn makes reading enjoyable, increasing the likelihood they will read more (Catts & Kamhi, 2005). Groups traditionally identified with more negative attitudes to reading--such as older children, boys and struggling readers--are often the recipients of the most concerted book promotion efforts (McKenna, 2001).

Initiatives that focus solely on the promotion of books for increased leisure reading might be missing the broad range of activities that can potentially support children's literacy, given the rapidly changing communication technology and media available. …

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