Bookmarked Why Learn to Read? (

The value placed on literacy has changed over time, shifting from a nineteenth-century moral imperative to a twentieth-century production necessity.

Deborah Brandt explains that learning to read has meant many things over time.

“Literacy was irrevocably transformed from a nineteenth-century moral imperative into a twentieth-century production imperative,” Brandt concludes, “Transformed from an attribute of a ‘good’ individual into an individual ‘good.’”

This reminds me of Doug Belshaw’s work on digital literacies and how what this means can vary.

RSVPed Attending EAL program: What is Plurilingualism?

This presentation will explore plurilingualism and the ways it can be used to enhance the teaching of EAL students.

This webinar offered by VCAA walks through the concept of plurilingualism and its implications. Plurilingual is about the languages inherent within the individual. This is different to multilingual which is about the various languages spoken within a community. Plurilingualism sees efficincy as something that is a combination of all languages, not just the mother tongue. With this in mind, it needs to be noted that proficency in mother tongue may in fact vary, especially in regards to written forms that may not be fostered as much.

This was a useful presentation as I am not sure I had ever properly thought about plurilingualism. It really has me rethinking ways in which I support learners. The challenge is to be aware of this and make it an active process. Associated with this, there needs to be an effort to promote a more positive perception about achievement. Rather than students struggling, they are on a developmental pathway. In the end, this all highlights the ways in which literacy not static, but something that is ever evolving.

Replied to Digikids and the quandry of the declining literacy levels (a macgirl in a pc world)

I have no intention to get into a ‘phonics vs …’ debate because I don’t understand why it has to be phonics vs anything. Why can’t it be phonics + other things? Reading is a complex act that involves not only working out what the squiggles on a page say but also what they mean directly and through implication. Phonics definitely has an important role to play but I’ve also experienced students who arrive in Grade 5 believing they are star readers because they can decode every word of complex text yet can’t tell you a single thing about what they’ve read. I’m also dubious of any method being suggested that involves a whole class of students sitting in front of a teacher repeating sounds over and over with no consideration of what they already know. Where I’ve seen direct phonics instruction be particularly effective it was with small groups of students where sounds and the required practise could be targeted to their needs and gaps.

Gill, I really enjoyed your summary of Four Corner’s Digi Kids. Like you, my first thoughts were that it lacked any sense of thread. However, maybe this assemblage of people, perspectives and practices captured some of the contributing factors that influence literacy development. However, it felt like one of those summaries of a PhD thesis that strips out much of the nuance, even if everything just seemed obvious to Dan Tehan.

Your point about going beyond the phonics debate is important. One of the best things that I have been a part of is disciplined collaboration. Although the intent was to improve aspects of literacy, the prime focus was to work collaboratively to identify strategies for the context at hand. I sometimes feel that those who jump to THE solution, whichever it maybe, are unwilling to allocate the time and resources to build the capacity of those in the classroom.

In regards to your closing question:

Are literacy levels actually dropping or is what being literate looks like changing in our modern, digital world?

I am reminded of something that Clive Thompson said in Smarter Than You Think:

Before the Internet came along, most people rarely wrote anything at all for pleasure or intellectual satisfaction after graduating from high school or college. This is something that’s particularly hard to grasp for professionals whose jobs require incessant writing, like academics, journalists, lawyers, or marketers. For them, the act of writing and hashing out your ideas seems commonplace. But until the late 1990s, this simply wasn’t true of the average nonliterary person. The one exception was the white-collar workplace, where jobs in the twentieth century increasingly required more memo and report writing. But personal expression outside the workplace—in the curious genres and epic volume we now see routinely online—was exceedingly rare. For the average person there were few vehicles for publication.

What about the glorious age of letter writing? The reality doesn’t match our fond nostalgia for it. Research suggests that even in the United Kingdom’s peak letter-writing years—the late nineteenth century, before the telephone became common—the average citizen received barely one letter every two weeks, and that’s even if we generously include a lot of distinctly unliterary business missives of the “hey, you owe us money” type. (Even the ultraliterate elites weren’t pouring out epistles. They received on average two letters per week.) In the United States, the writing of letters greatly expanded after 1845, when the postal service began slashing its rates on personal letters and an increasingly mobile population needed to communicate across distances. Cheap mail was a powerful new mode of expression—though as with online writing, it was unevenly distributed, with probably only a minority of the public taking part fully, including some city dwellers who’d write and receive mail every day. But taken in aggregate, the amount of writing was remarkably small by today’s standards. As the historian David Henkin notes in The Postal Age , the per capita volume of letters in the United States in 1860 was only 5.15 per year. “That was a huge change at the time—it was important,” Henkin tells me. “But today it’s the exceptional person who doesn’t write five messages a day. I think a hundred years from now scholars will be swimming in a bewildering excess of life writing.”


Bookmarked The story of handwriting in 12 objects (

A new exhibition traces the remarkable evolution of writing. Cameron Laux picks 12 highlights offering insights into one of humanity’s greatest achievements.

Cameron Laux reports on a new exhibition involving 100 objects which capture the development of writing over time. Laux documents 12 of the items to demonstrate change over time. I wonder if the last item in the exhibition involves the end of handwriting? This collection also reminds me of the BBC Radio 4 series from a few years ago A History of the World in 100 Objects.
Liked Why reading aloud is a vital bridge to literacy (the Guardian)

The way we speak is very different from the way we write – especially from the way we write continuous prose. When we speak, we hesitate, we contract phrases (as with “wouldn’t’ve”), we repeat ourselves, we often leave gaps for others to fill in. Or we might just tail off. We use intonation and gesture to indicate or colour meaning. We use more pronouns than we do when we write, because we can specify who we are referring to with gesture and tone. We use a lot of ums and errs and “you knows” to give ourselves time to think or to hold a listener’s attention. And we avoid front-loading sentences with phrases and clauses that delay getting to the main point.

Bookmarked Critical Media Literacy by Ian O’Byrne (

Critical media literacy has readers interrogating text to examine and challenge the dominant power structures that audiences work to make meaning between the dominant, oppositional, & negotiated readings of media.

Ian O’Byrne continues his discussion of the importance of critical literacy for students today in response to the changing ways that networked publics consume and critique information online. It is interesting to compare O’Byrne’s prompts for interrogating texts with Mike Caulfield’s four moves. Another interesting read on this topic is Clare Wardle’s lessons on for the age of disinformation.
Bookmarked Opinion | Is Listening to a Book the Same Thing as Reading It? (

Listening to a book club selection is not cheating. It’s not even cheating to listen while you’re at your child’s soccer game (at least not as far as the book is concerned). You’ll just get different things out of the experience. And different books invite different ways that you want to read them: As the audio format grows more popular, authors are writing more works specifically meant to be heard.

Daniel Willingham discusses the differences between reading and listening to texts. He touches on the affordances of each arguing that they are best suited to different purposes, and neither is superior.
Bookmarked ‘Invisible’ literacies are literacies for the future. What are they? Why is teaching them vital? by Georgina Barton, Amélie Lemieux and Jean-Charles Chabanne (EduResearch Matters)

Discipline–specific literacies (literacies that are specifically needed in a discipline, for example, by an historian or a lawyer, in order for them to work effectively in their fields) have been the focus of much research. Content area specialists build knowledge in their field. They use ‘invisible’ and important literacies that go beyond traditional writing text, spelling, punctuation and other conventional literacies. These include other modes (such as collaboration or demonstration) or semiotics (signs, marks) present in different subject areas.

Georgina Barton, Amélie Lemieux and Jean-Charles Chabanne discuss the place of subject specific vocabulary. It is interesting to this of this alongside discussions of digital literacies and fluency.
Liked Text tradeoffs as we move from print to pixel by wiobyrne (W. Ian O’Byrne)

A broadened view of text is needed to consider the various forms and modes of text in our world. These might include text in a printed book, a street sign, a video game, a YouTube video, an animated GIF, audio podcast, etc. We can no longer look at only one form of text as “correct”, and all other forms of reading and writing as not involving true literacy practices.

Bookmarked Seven things teachers agree on about teaching reading in Australia. Stop all the political haranguing over phonics by By Robyn Ewing (EduResearch Matters)

I am continually asked: why are we are once again adopting UK policies and accepting as ‘evidence’ the Rose Report from the UK? This report recommended that synthetic phonics be the preferred method for teaching early reading in the UK, but the ‘evidence’ quoted in the report has been widely disputed, including in the UK, by highly respected literacy education experts. The way the report has since been used politically is of ongoing concern.

This was the impetus for the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney to hold a symposium on The role of phonics in learning to be literate last week in Sydney in conjunction with The Australian Literacy Educators Association.

Robyn Ewing reflects on a recent symposium looking at Phonics. She shares a series of agreements from the event:

  • Learning to be literate is crucial for children’s life chances.

  • Socioeconomic status has a big impact on how well children read

  • Learning to be literate is a highly complex contextualised social practice – not a series of hierarchical skills

  • Learning to read is about making meaning. There are no easy, one size fits all recipes.

  • Rich literature, real texts should play an important role in any literacy program

  • Phonics and other code-based literacy practices are widespread in early years learning contexts in Australia. Where is the evidence that teachers aren’t using these strategies?

  • Another test is highly problematic and will disadvantage our EALD (English as an additional language or dialect) learners as well as many in vulnerable situations