Separate worlds? Home and school literacy among multi- and monolingual children in Sweden

Anders Björkvall, Charlotte Engblom

Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden Gävle University College, Gävle, Sweden

TP154: Youth, language practices and sociocultural change

The paper presents a comparison between children’s literacy activities in school and the literacy activities they choose to participate in when at home. The attitudes connected to language use and literacy activities in different communities and environments are also discussed. The gap between text activities in the home and in school has been discussed in previous research (e.g. Barton & Hamilton 1998, Fast 2006, Gee 2003, Martin-Jones & Jones 2000), but for multilingual children there is not only a gap between multimodal, often screen based, literacy activities and the more traditional pen–and–paper activities in the classroom; there is also often a gap between Swedish in school and other languages at home. We will present an analysis of 7–10-year old multi- and monolingual children’s text related activities in different contexts along with an analysis of attitudes: what are the children’s, caretakers’, and teachers’ attitudes toward choice of language and more or less multimodal text activities that take place at home and in school? How is the learning potential of the children’s self- chosen multilingual and multimodal literacy activities affected by such attitudes?

The main theoretical issue addressed in the paper concerns the relation between community, language use and literacy activities. A sociocultural perspective on learning and literacy is advocated, which enables us to examine and discuss the relevance of such connections. The methodology can be described as ethnographical (Dyson & Genishi 2005). The different text activities during school time and at home have been photographically documented, central texts have been collected (including electronic and multimodal texts), and interviews have been carried out. The case study comprises four children, both mono- and multilingual. One finding is that the children’s opportunities for variation in language use, literacy activities and mediating tools in the home have few counterparts inside the classroom. This is the case for both multilingual and monolingual children.


Barton, David & Mary Hamilton. 1998. Local literacies: Reading and writing in one community. London & New York: Routledge.

Dyson, Anne Haas & Celia Genishi. 2005. On the case: Approaches to language and literacy research. New York: Teachers College Press.

Fast, Carina. 2007. Sju barn lär sig läsa och skriva: Familjeliv och poulärkultur i möte med förskola och skola. [Seven children learn to read and write: Family life and popular culture in contact with preschool and primary school]. (Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.) Uppsala: Uppsala universitet.

Gee, James Paul. 2003. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Martin-Jones, Marilyn & Kathryn Jones (eds.). 2000. Multilingual literacies: Reading and writing different worlds. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Session: Themed Panel (part 2)
Youth, language practices and sociocultural change
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 03