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E801: Week 1: Action 1.4: Siblings bridging literacies in multilingual contexts

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Week 1: Activity 1.4 Siblings bridging literacies in multilingual contexts

Williams, A. & Gregory, E. (1999) 'Siblings bridging literacies in multilingual contexts' in Soler, J., Fletcher-Campbell, F. & Reid, G. (eds.) Understanding Difficulties in Literacy Development: Issues and Concepts, London, Sage.

I have very little knowledge from my current practice which is in a university setting but a few years ago I worked with a colleague who was a primary school teacher and home-school liaison representative for a school in an area where many families were disadvantaged. She told me that they could not send reading books home from school as they were immediately sold by many of their families. When she visited families, there was generally no reading material in the house but in one case she was proudly shown the one book they possessed.

I think that the belief systems of families do play a part in literacy practices. I was speaking to a young lady today whose four year old daughter has been at school for a month. She was complaining that the teacher was sending home reading books and spellings. She said that she and her husband were annoyed that they had sent their daughter to school to be taught how to read and write and they were expected to do it themselves at home. I have encountered this perception with families in other circumstances. They believe that their taxes pay for teachers and that teachers should do their jobs properly - it should not involve them.

In contrast I have worked with some Muslim families in similar financial and social situations who strongly believe that education is the responsibility of the parents and schools are there to help (or hinder!) this process. Two of the young female Muslim students with whom I work, have problems studying at home. They have responsibilities to look after younger siblings and entertain the family and they are not expected to study. On the other hand their brothers are encouraged to study and this has set up family tensions in both cases.

Looking at the research that was done in the paper, I was not too convinced that instructing the siblings to audio tape themselves in a setting that involved literacy-type games would give very valuable information.  Would the children normally play these games? Or are they staged just because they have been asked to record this. Interviews may prove valuable and so could small group work but either may introduce a competitive aspect in which children are trying to impress their peers or the interviewer with how 'good' they are with their younger siblings.

Despite my reservations I still feel that the paper provides relevant information which could help educators plan and develop pedagogies to achieve multi-literacies. Investigating the cultural background and the impact that it has on language in the home and at play is important to determine which other areas of literacy will require development.


Identify a problem which is linked directly to your involvement in facilitating learning and developing teaching strategies for learners who experience difficulties in literacy which could be investigated by gathering qualitative evidence.

My context is working at university level with students who have various disabilities including dyslexia. Many of them have problems accessing journal literature and I currently believe that this could be investigated by semi-structured questionnaire to investigate the previous experience they have had with searching for information; how they look for relevant journal resources and how they approach reading the papers that they find.

I think that recording any relevant information in my blog with the tag 'ECA research' would prove useful when I need to refer back to it. I also intend to use Delicious bookmarks to note blogs/papers etc. and using the same tag would be helpful.


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