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Global Literacy Perspectives, Contexts, and Challenges.

Literacy can enrich lives, increase self-respect, open doors of opportunity, and furnish people with a voice. On a broader scale, literacy can enhance economic and social development and lay foundations for social justice. As countries around the world seek to promote literacy and combat illiteracy, the authors in this issue of Childhood Education remind us how complex perspectives and contexts affect the challenge of reaching those goals.

Ros Fisher, Maureen Lewis, and Bernie Davis describe the implementation of the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) in England. Effective literacy strategies were selected for a national curriculum that attempted to affect not only what was taught in the schools, but also how it was taught. This article examines whether the NLS changed teachers' practices. Although initial results are positive, the authors question if progress can be sustained through superficial change that does not address teachers' pedagogical styles.

Jeehyun Lee, Eunhye Park, and Heejin Kim focus on the sociocultural perspective of literacy learning in Korea. Educators' views of what is appropriate instruction for young children are challenged by the social issue of parental anxiety regarding limited spaces for admission to college. Parents inappropriately choose a drill-and-practice approach using extensive worksheets; they seek to ensure that their children gain reading and writing abilities at an early age. The authors suggest that literacy instruction should include characteristics of the language and the sociocultural climate, while at the same time being developmentally appropriate.

Ignacio Dalton provides a review of the political contexts of literacy in Argentina. He connects the many years that Argentinians lived under dictatorships to an extreme control of teaching methodology, which, in turn, has repressed literacy. Now, however, Paulo Freire's pedagogy of freedom, the move to a democratic government, and research on how children learn to read and write (i.e., emergent literacy) have influenced new trends in literacy instruction. Dalton suggests that the work is still not complete, and that political and educational changes must continue to provide a climate that encourages different ways to promote literacy learning, such as linking literacy and play. Dalton then describes his literacy/play research project, which, he believes, is a successful way to develop emergent literacy abilities.

Nigel Hall (England) moves the literacy discussion to the personal level. He presents the literacy strategy of "interactive writing" with young children as a way to provide children with a voice in their own education. Hall thoughtfully challenges our view of literacy learning as a process of "control" over what children can say, do, and write through endless teacher-directed lessons. He sensibly presents interactive writing as one way to allow children to use their own words to get teachers to listen to them.

In Sweden, and other Nordic countries, there has been a growing interest in young children's literacy development. Anders Arnqvist describes how "different traditions" have influenced the debate and practice of literacy learning in preschool and primary schools. One tradition focuses on meaningful, playful contexts for the introduction of letters and words, whereas the other tradition supports waiting until children are linguistically prepared to read and write, thus delaying formal instruction until they enter the primary school. Arnqvist suggests, based on research projects, that literacy learning could begin earlier by using linguistic games in a playful way, and that stimulation of linguistic awareness influences a child's ability to read and write.

Laurie Makin, Jacqueline Hayden, and Criss Jones Diaz discuss how Australian children from sociocultural minority groups are less likely to be successful in mainstream school contexts. Their project mapped existing literacy practices and identified ways to better support young children's literacy development in early childhood classrooms. They suggest closing the link between theory and practice, developing a more positive approach to diversity, communicating with parents, and providing staff with more knowledge about bilingual and biliteracy development.

Norbert Francis and Rafael Nieto Andrade focus on the challenge of literacy and multilingualism in Mexico. These authors provide a review of Mexico's history, which includes the first-known widespread experiment in bilingual literacy in the Western Hemisphere between European and indigenous languages (dating back to the 16th century). The authors note that the current academic disparities between minority language children and majority language children have prompted educators to consider bilingual literacy. This article describes three different projects that promote biliteracy and the maintenance and revitalization of indigenous languages. The authors put forth the issue of linguistic human rights--a child's right to gain access to the linguistic means for his or her cognitive and academic development.

Asha Saini reports on the rich literacy history of India as a backdrop to India's present-day aggressive initiatives to reach the goal of national literacy. In her historical review, Saini takes the reader along a time line of an India with strong literacy traditions, where most Indians participated in free education, to an India under foreign domination, where literacy was not available for all. Despite the push for equitable and quality education since independence, high rates of illiteracy and poverty remain constant challenges. Saini describes two programs that have helped India to steadily decrease the illiteracy rate. Even so, she notes that the literacy goal is still a vision, rather than a reality.

Finally, Patricia Corson from Canada reminds us of the challenge to meet the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse children and their families. She suggests that an anti-bias approach (one of inclusion and positive self-esteem for all) is crucial to literacy. As multilingual classrooms become the norm in many cities, it is imperative to create programs, particularly for young children, in which minority languages are maintained and valued, while at the same time developing dominant language and literacy skills so that children can succeed in the dominant society.

In this issue of Childhood Education, the authors consider the complex historical, political, and cultural contexts of literacy. They embrace a common goal of freedom to research and experiment with new ideas and literacy strategies. The articles highlight the importance of meaningful contexts for literacy development, the developmental nature of literacy acquisition (e.g., emergent literacy), the foundational relationship between language and literacy, and the challenges of multilingual societies. The authors strongly support programs and contexts to promote and sustain literacy learning for all. Finally, they recognize how closely literacy is tied to the issues of social justice, including promoting linguistic freedom, considering children's voices, and creating an anti-bias curriculum that erases disparities, so that all can have access to literacy and the subsequent opportunities for a fruitful, fulfilling life.

Guest Editors

Sandra J. Stone is Associate Professor, Literacy and Early Childhood Education, Northern Arizona University. James P. Christie is Professor, Curriculum & Instruction, Arizona State University. Ann Katrin Svensson is Assistant Professor, Educational Research, Jonkoping University, Jonkoping, Sweden. Eunhye Park is Associate Professor, Ewha Woman's University, Seoul, Korea.
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Article Details
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Author:Stone, Sandra J.
Publication:Childhood Education
Date:Sep 15, 2000
Words:1124
Previous Article:A Review: Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Vol. 14, No. 1, Fall/Winter 1999.
Next Article:Implementation of the National Literacy Strategy in England: Indications of Change.


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