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Researching biliteracy in urban schools

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Literacy has become an increasingly important feature of the educational discourse. International comparisons of levels of literacy have in Denmark and many other countries been interpreted as an indication of a prevailing literacy crisis. Special attention is focused in the Danish crisis discourse on categorisation and identification of ‘the bilingual students’ as a particular group of underachievers who, in particular, have become symbol of the crisis.
Through the monolingual testing practices, literacy is narrowed to specific measurable (reading) skills in a specific language and in a specific script, leading to a disqualification of the students’ linguistic and literacy resources - and an ethnification of the understanding of school failure (Blommaert, Creve & Willaert; 2005).
The study Signs of Language is a longitudional research project located in five urban areas in Denmark. It arises from an ambition to expand the understanding of literacy in ways, which might contribute to lift the basic understanding of bilinguals’ literacy out of such disqualifying political discourses and into a broader research agenda on childhood biliteracy.
The study is based within a social semiotic framework, in which literacy learning is seen as “a process whereby young children make meaning from the information available to them in their particular sociocultural contexts” (Kenner, Kress, Al-Khatib, Kam & Tsai 2004:124).
A shift in research focus from bilingual children’s testing performance of literacy - understood as reading skills measured in the majority language - to examinations of children’s interpretations and emergent understanding of literacy – understood as a mode of representation, which is not restricted to one specific language and one specific script system - aims to broaden the understanding of what count as literacy and sheds light on the role of the children’s multilingual repertoire in their literacy learning.
Udgivelsesår24 aug. 2012
StatusUdgivet - 24 aug. 2012
BegivenhedSociolinguistics Symposium: Language and the City - Freie Universität, Berlin, Tyskland
Varighed: 21 aug. 201224 sep. 2012


KonferenceSociolinguistics Symposium
LokationFreie Universität


  • literacy crisis, literacy, 'closing the gap', Social semiotics, Bilingual children, Grundskole, Dansk som 2. sprog, Dansk/læse/skrive

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