Multimodal literacies

Flewitt, Rosie (2008). Multimodal literacies. In: Marsh, Jackie and Hallet, Elaine eds. Desirable Literacies: Approaches to Language and Literacy in the Early Years. London, UK: Sage, pp. 122–366.



This chapter introduces the terms multimodality and multimodal literacies. Drawing on social semiotic theories of communication and on early years research, it illustrates how children become literate in many ways, not just through language, but through learning to use combinations of different modes, such as gesture, gaze, movement, image, layout, music and sound effects. The chapter clarifies how children’s uses of different modes are shaped by the social and cultural worlds that they find themselves in, and how learning to be literate in today’s world involves acquiring a range of skills and practices in different media, such as personal computers, games consoles and mobile phones. These media require even very young children to use and interpret a varied repertoire of representational modes, and children’s ability to negotiate new forms of literacy carries high stakes for social standing and life destinations. A major task, therefore, for practitioners is to reflect on their own practice so they can better support children’s understanding and competence in diverse forms of visual, printed and digital literacies, in contexts that are meaningful to them.

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