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The research project Multimodal Literacies in the Early Years explored what learning to be ‘literate’ means for young children in today’s media-rich world.  It was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and was awarded to Dr Rosie Flewitt with Dr Sylvia Wolfe (University of Cambridge) as Research Associate.

In this study, we wanted to find out how 3 and 4 year old children develop literacy knowledge and skills as they participate in a range of everyday practices with traditional and new technologies, from mark-making on paper, to sharing story books, computer games, interactive TV and digital toys.

We decided that we wanted to gain in-depth insights into the processes of children’s literacy learning with diverse technologies, so we conducted case studies of 10 young children who attended a Sure Start Children’s Centre nursery in the South of England. We conducted a survey of all parents and staff in the setting, and interviewed parents and staff about their literacy beliefs and practices to see how these impacted on the children’s literacy experiences. We then made video recordings of ten children in the nursery and at home, and conducted detailed analysis of how the children used and interpreted combinations of modes, such as spoken and written language, gesture, images, sounds and layout, as they engaged with literacy in different media.

The overall aim of the project is to add to theoretical and practical understandings of early literacy development at a time of unprecedented use of digital technologies in everyday life, whilst also developing innovative ethnographic methods for the multimodal analysis of a multimedia data set.

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