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Building Communities: researching literacy lives

This project aims to connect to children's literacy practices beyond school and to widen conceptions of literacy in the 21st century. It has sought to establish new links between home and school, building on the 'funds of knowledge' (Luis Moll et al, 1992) that already exist in homes and communities. Researching and valuing the everyday literacy lives of young learners, 18 teachers in primary schools across five local authorities in England were helped to create new communities within and beyond school. The work drew on previous research - Teachers as Readers: Building Communities of Readers (Cremin et al., 2008. 2009) -which identified a set of core values and principles that were key to the growth of successful new communities. The concept of community was described by Williams (1976) as 'the quality of human relationships – communitas – rather than systems or structures'. By observing children's literacy learning in different social, historical, cultural and linguistic contexts, and by examining their own literacy histories and practices, many of the teachers in the project began to:

  • rethink how literacy is taught and understood in today's schools
  • define what counts as valid and valuable literacy for parents and children
  • recognise the wealth of literacy practices beyond school which were often interconnected and child-led
  • develop a wider view of the inseparable relationship between literacy and learning
  • appreciate the children's and families' diverse funds of knowledge
  • build on these funds of knowledge and design more open and flexible learning opportunities that connected vitally to these.

Some teachers found that in creating a more 'permeable curricula' it enabled children to draw on and connect to their funds of knowledge in school. This prompted increased engagement and motivation on the part of the children, which demonstrated their increased independence as learners.

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