Fostering Multiple Literacies in a Linguistically Diverse Aotearoa New Zealand: A Family Biliteracy Perspective

By Franco Vaccarino and Ute Walker.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Literacy (and fluency) in a major lingua franca such as English has been seen as a key to social, cultural and economic success in a global world. However, children of the 21st century live in a context of growing diversity where the lack of bi/multilingual abilities may put them at a disadvantage in a world that is primarily multilingual. Yet, in immigration contexts, the bi/multilingual repertoires of migrant families tend to be devalued and, due to the often sole emphasis of the education system (and settlement strategy as in New Zealand) on English (ESOL) education, a shift towards monolingual practices occurs. Under these conditions, retaining a minority language presents a particular challenge in relation to writing. The home is often the only place where this language might be used, and parents act as the child’s first and sometimes only teacher of that language. The family context may thus offer a way to address the lack of affordances for biliteracy in the educational or wider societal context. This paper reports on a small-scale project aimed to promote biliteracy in the migrant family context, where opportunities to foster biliteracy practices are woven into everyday family life. This paper illustrates how parent-child interactions and collaborative dialogue can help facilitate biliterate practices. It describes benefits for families and discusses how development of multiple literacies is enhanced through parental involvement.

Keywords: Biliteracy/Multiple Literacies

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 11, pp.89-96. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 582.703KB).

Dr. Franco Vaccarino

Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication and Journalism, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

I’m Italian, raised in South Africa, and now living in Aotearoa New Zealand! My background is in adult literacy and applied linguistics. My career in the adult literacy field started at a commercial bank where we provided literacy classes to employees. At the University of South Africa I was involved in training individuals who wanted to become literacy facilitators, including prisoners. In a joint project by the University of South Africa and an NGO, I managed and coordinated a family literacy project in various sites throughout South Africa, including urban and rural areas, a farm school, a slum area, a mother-child prison, an AIDS-orphaned village, and a special needs school. I designed and developed adult literacy, post-literacy and non-formal education curricula for the Ministry of Education in the Republic of Mozambique. I completed a postdoctoral research fellowship which involved a longitudinal study of adult literacy and employment in New Zealand. I am currently a senior lecturer in cross-cultural communication.

Dr. Ute Walker

Senior Lecturer, School of European Languages, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Ute Walker is Senior Lecturer in German at the School of Language Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North. Her research combines bi/multilingualism studies with applied linguistics and issues of diversity, migration and settlement. Her 2004 thesis explores the impact of post-migration discontinuities on the socio-linguistic and psychological functioning of migrants.


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