English in Education, Summer 2019

It’s a Literacy-focused issue.

John Hodgson’s editorial explores briefly the definitions of literacy and suggests two paradigms exist: one as the functional, autonomous ability of a child to read; the other:

…involves reading the world and reading the word… and connects personal response and social awareness.

Hodgson cites the work of the New London Group and the concept of “multiliteracies” in the 1990s – and this becomes the touchstone for the various discussions on literacy presented in the issue.

I found the following articles incredibly interesting:

Literacy Constants in a Context of Contemporary Change by Margaret Mackey – using Professor Keith Oatley’s work on cognitive psychology and Reading and Writing, Mackey argues that a discussion about the nature of current literacy is founded on its psychological functions. She discusses initial literacy acquisition (as a physical activity) and agrees that, quite early on, reading is an encounter with another mind which causes us to think beyond ourselves. After that, Mackey explores children’s reading, recreational reading, literary reading (associated with the “function of thinking”), deep reading (I understand as engagement with a text that sparks thinking or response), critical reading and conversational reading (essentially social media). I was interested in a reference to Miall and Kuiken’s definition of literariness as “defamilirisation” of style or narrative that cause a reinterpretation of a conventional feeling or concept. Mackey suggests that reading behaviours overlap. Finally, she advocates for a broader understanding of what modern (multimodal, I guess) literacy and that “Pursuing what we value about reading will be better achieved by understanding our own priorities even as we respect the lively ways contemporary readers navigate today’s new possibilities.”

The Thought Chronicle: Devaluing a Multimodal Repertoire of Response in Teacher Education by David Lewkowich – is a fantastic promotion of multimodal responses to texts. I love his assertion that “how and what we choose to read and write invariably affects how we choose to teach, and how we choose to communicate our understanding of social and individual experience, and our love of language and literature” and – especially: “Such choices, therefore, also affect how our students come to learn and how they come to know themselves in educational spaces.” Absolutely ageed! Lewkowich presents what he calls the Thought Chronicle, essentially a creative journal responding to studied texts in a variety of forms. He reproduces his assignment brief to his trainee-teachers which aims to “demonstrate knowledge in a variety of ways”. (As an aside: I think this approach is liberating in how it breaks free of the reductionist exam-response approach to measuring knowledge.) He discusses the role of teacher as expert and how sharing knowledge which is “non-authority”. His phrase “uncertain becomings” not only refers to trainee English teachers but anyone – child or adult – engaging with texts. Really love this quote from Nikos Kazantzakis: “True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own”. There are six pages of highly interesting examples of pieces from thought chronicles reproduced. Highly-inspiring article!