Wednesday, 15 April 2020

15:00-17:00

Literacy & Language Seminar - Beyond progress in early childhood literacies

Brooks Building, Room 2.02

Beyond progress in early childhood literacies. What is lost and what is gained?

Dr Abi Hackett - ESRI, Manchester Met

This paper draws on a three year ethnographic study of 1-3 year old children in community spaces in order to rethink early childhood language and literacies. Everyday ways of knowing and the intensities of mundane moments of lived experience with families and young children in communities tend to be erased by generalizable narratives of language acquisition and literacy competencies. In response, and inspired by a question Viruru asked nearly two decades ago “what is lost when language is gained?” (Viruru, 2001, p.31), this paper urges us to dwell in those moments of being under 36 months, a time when words are not central to how one views the world, and to consider seriously, what is lost as well as what is gained during this time. This question, I argue, acts as a starting point for reconceptualising young children’s language and literacy practices beyond progress. I draw on Tsing’s (2015) work to reconceptualise young children’s literacy practices beyond a progress narrative of ‘promise or ruin’. Tsing writes that such tropes offer “no leftovers, no excess, nothing that escapes progress. Progress still controls us even in tales of ruination.” (Tsing, 2015, p.21), and urges us instead to notice differently, to pay attention to that which survives or persists in spite of progress, rather than because of it. By dwelling in the intensities of everyday life with young children in community spaces, and paying particular attention to what takes place in spite of progress, this paper challenges two key assumptions within early childhood literacies. 

1. That young children’s acquisition of more literacy practices earlier, is an unproblematic and apolitical goal.

2. That nothing is lost, or risked, or given up when young children acquire literacies.