Literacy Experiences: An Exploration Of Young Children's Orientations, Identities, And Affective Relations With Text

Rodriguez León, Lucy Jane (2020). Literacy Experiences: An Exploration Of Young Children's Orientations, Identities, And Affective Relations With Text. PhD thesis The Open University.



Traditionally, in educational discourses early literacy development has tended to be thought of in terms of measurable learning outcomes. In this thesis, young children’s encounters with written and multimodal texts are re-imagined as literacy experiences. The research adopted a cultural-historical theoretical framework, which blended the analytical concepts of activity settings, perezhivanie and subjectivity, and acknowledged new materialist perspectives, to generate a new conceptual lens to frame the literacy experience. Case studies of five 3-4-year old children were documented over eight months in a nursery classroom and family homes using ethnographic data gathering methods. Observational data recorded through video and field notes were complemented by the perspectives of parents, nursery practitioners and of the children themselves.

Starting from the premise that literacy is socially constructed and culturally shaped, this study extends sociocultural perspectives by demonstrating that each encounter with text is also a unique and personal experience for the individual child. The findings reveal how the focal children’s intentions with text were orientated toward three overarching aspirations; to make meaning, make relationships, and make identities. The study elucidates that in each literacy event, the children were in a continual process of configuring, expressing, and positioning themselves. Analysis of the dynamic, affective relations between the child, social others and the text suggests that children’s interest in literacy may develop in anticipation of the experience afforded as well as in response to the opportunity to make meaning.

The conceptual space constructed in this thesis redirects the analytic lens to the relational, affective, social, material and highly personal processes involved in literacy. The study reveals that significant affective moments in children’s encounters with text leave a residue. Thus, it is argued that practitioners need to be mindful of how their pedagogic practices impact on children’s literacy experiences, and of the residual effect of affect.

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