In the words of young children and their educators: literacy learning as dialogic encounter in the world 

Year: 2013

Author: Harris, Pauline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Young children’s and early childhood educators’ perspectives about their experiences in literacy programs continue to be relatively absent in deliberations on research-informed policy to guide early years literacy practice. Yet children and their educators are among those most directly affected by policy choices made in this space. The purpose of this paper is to stimulate shaping of research in ways that insert young children’s and their educators’ voices in the nexus of reading research, policy and practice – a nexus where the voices most strongly heard do not necessarily belong to those most affected.
This paper uses a Freirean lens to critique current literacy policies and practices in the early years in terms of young children's literate identities and voices.  Key principles guiding this critique include the notion of literacy learning as dialogic encounter between child and educator in the world, and the place of children’s agency and participation, their voices and words, in such encounters. Extant structures implied by policy and evidenced in practice are critiqued in terms of how they enable or constrain such dialogue to occur. 
Giving voice to children and their early childhood educators about the issues that this critique highlights, this paper includes a case study of how members of an early childhood professional association came together to insert children’s and their own voices in the literacy policy domain. Educators worked together in dialogue with one another and their children in the preschool year, and in their own words developed a position paper on early years literacy to directly inform policy in their jurisdiction.
A way to tell and evidence these educators’ and children’s literacy stories, this position paper and its dialogic process of problematisation and development are also analysed according to Freirean principles. Implications of this analysis are discussed in relation to inserting educators’ and children’s voices in the literacy research/policy/practice nexus. To insert these voices in their words is essential, for as Freire (2002) argued, our literacy programs need to be founded on respect for and recognition of the voices and views of those directly involved if we aspire to positive outcomes and the realisation of children’s identities and legacies, now and in the future.