I’ve always found joy in reading and writing, and for a long time I associated literacy only with reading and comprehending text. I think this is due to the way the concept of literacy was presented in my PK-12 school experience. In college I expanded my definition of literacy to include computer, design, digital media and visual literacy. This expansion happened as I engaged in decoding meaning in images & videos during explorations of art making, art history and art criticism in my Fine Arts training. When I began learning about Reggio-inspired education I further expanded my definition of literacy to include social-emotional, scientific and numerical literacy.
In my teaching practice I try to always consider the hundred languages of children, and adjust my ways of negotiating understanding accordingly. I see this as an evolving way of being, similar to what Paulo Freire states in regard to the role of the teacher, “a teacher is a professional, one who must constantly seek to improve and to develop certain qualities or virtues, which are not received but must be created. The capacity to renew ourselves everyday is very important.” I appreciate the way in which Freire’s views on teaching reading and writing align with this mindset as well, as he states “teaching kids to read and write should be an artistic event” and “reading is more than a technical event”.
Respecting the many ways that humans relate to each other and the world helps shape my image of the child as capable and competent. While this sometimes causes some dissonance, I’ve learned to release expectations that children (and adults) will fit into any one certain way of being or communicating. As Freire states, “Teachers should be conscious every day that they are coming to school to learn and not just to teach. This way we are not just teachers but teacher learners.”
Relatedly, I am committed to approaching my thinking and teaching about literacy in ways that are open and informed by what Gandini describes in Play and the Hundred Languages of Children: An Interview with Lella Gandini. American Journal of Play, “Literacy and play, indeed all learning and play, can go together. They really must go together; together they can and should be pleasurable and rewarding experiences for children, and for teachers and parents as well..”
Fellow educators, where are you in your understanding of literacy practices?
Freire, P. (1985). Reading the World and Reading the Word: An Interview with Paulo Freire. Language Arts, 62(1), 15–21.