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Teaching Reading in a digital age: didactic issues from an european perspective
di Ilaria Filograsso   

In March 2016, the European Literacy Policy Network (ELINET) published the European Declaration of the Right to Literacy, recalling the emergency framework already outlined by other recent European documents and briefly defining the eleven essential conditions for obtaining the acquisition of Basic literacy skills.

In line with the indications of the European surveys and guidelines published in recent years (in particular the IEA PIRLS 2006 and OECD PISA 2009 surveys), the Delaration highlights that the pedagogical challenge of training readers must take into account a multiplicity of factors – social, political, cultural and economical: the need for family literacy promoted responsibly by parents and caregivers, institutional educational investment in early childhood, continuous training of specialized and competent teachers, the presence of updated and technologically equipped school and public libraries, and a national educational policy along with the strategies put in place by each territory.

In the current society of information characterized by the constant innovation of digital  technologies and by the continuous changes in the working world, to guarantee to all European citizens the acquisition of an adequate literacy represents an urgent goal, on the one hand because the digitalization entails a more and more widespread use of the written word in social, civic and economic interaction, on the other hand because the increase of mobility and migratory phenomena imply the ability to “inhabit” a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The function of the quality of teaching and teacher training is central in a “literary environment” that wants to promote, with the alliance of all educational institutions of the territory, the pleasure of reading and writing, integrating traditional and new media literacies which are required for a conscious and critical access to the context of contemporary communication.

Nel marzo 2016 la rete europea ELINET (European Literacy Policy Network) ha pubblicato la Dichiarazione europea del diritto alla literacy, richiamando il quadro di emergenza già tracciato da altri recenti documenti europei e definendo sinteticamente le undici condizioni indispensabili ai fini di ottenere l’acquisizione di competenze di literacy di base. In linea con le indicazioni delle indagini e delle indicazioni europee pubblicate negli ultimi anni (in particolare le indagini IEA PIRLS 2006 e OCSE PISA 2009), la Dichiarzione evidenzia che la sfida pedagogica della formazione dei lettori deve tenere conto di una molteplicità di fattori – sociali, politici, culturali ed economici: la necessità di una familiy literacy svolta con competenza da genitori e caregivers, l'investimento educativo istituzionale sulla prima infanzia, la formazione continua di docenti specializzati e competenti, la presenza di biblioteche scolastiche e pubbliche aggiornate e tecnologicamente attrezzate, la politica educativa nazionale insieme alle strategie messe in campo da ogni singolo territorio e dalle risorse umane di ogni singola scuola.

Nell'attuale società dell’informazione, caratterizzata dalla continua innovazione delle tecnologie digitali e dai repentini cambiamenti nel mondo del lavoro, garantire a tutti i cittadini europei l'acquisizione di una literacy adeguata rappresenta un traguardo urgente, da un lato perché la digitalizzazione comporta un utilizzo sempre più capillare della parola scritta nell’interazione sociale, civica ed economica, dall’altro perché l’aumento della mobilità e i fenomeni migratori impongono la capacità di “abitare” un’ampia gamma di background culturali e linguistici. Il ruolo della qualità dell’insegnamento scolastico e della formazione degli insegnanti risulta centrale in un “ambiente letterato” che voglia promuovere, con l’alleanza di tutte le istituzioni educative del territorio, il piacere della lettura e della scrittura, integrando competenze tradizionali e nuove alfabetizzazioni richieste per un accesso consapevole e critico al contesto della comunicazione contemporanea.

Il ruolo della qualità dell’insegnamento scolastico e della formazione degli insegnanti risulta centrale in un “ambiente letterato” che voglia promuovere, con l’alleanza di tutte le istituzioni educative del territorio, il piacere della lettura e della scrittura, integrando competenze tradizionali e nuove alfabetizzazioni richieste per un accesso consapevole e critico al contesto della comunicazione contemporanea.

1. Literacy, a basic right for everyone

In March 2016, the European Literacy Policy Network (ELINET) published the European Declaration of the Right to Literacy, recalling the emergency framework already outlined by other recent European documents and briefly defining the eleven essential conditions for obtaining the acquisition of Basic literacy skills: among these, the active involvement of families and all educational institutions, the promotion of reading for pleasure, the accessibility and quality of libraries, the importance of digital skills and timely and early intervention for children and young people with special educational needs.

In line with the indications of the European surveys and guidelines published in recent years (in particular the IEA PIRLS 2006 and OECD PISA 2009 surveys) the Declaration highlights the complexity and multiplicity of factors – social, political, cultural and economical – which the pedagogical challenge of training readers must take into account: the need for family literacy promoted responsibly by parents and caregivers, institutional educational investment in early childhood, continuous training of specialized and competent teachers, the presence of updated and technologically equipped school and public libraries, and a national educational policy along with the strategies put in place by each territory and the human resources of each single school.

The stakes for one European child aged 15 out of 5 and for 55 million adults below the basic level of literacy skills are very high: the risk of poverty and social exclusion, the future chance to find a job, cultural and social participation opportunities, lifelong learning and personal growth, and the exercising of active citizenship. The 2016 Declaration intends to show that with the proper support of the territory, in a context of co-responsibility, children and young people can develop excellent literacy skills and find their place within society. Indeed, the indications of recent European documents emphasize the importance of the closeness between different institutions called upon to work in a coordinated way: the promotion of books and a reading culture, apart from a concept linked to the event and to the exceptional nature of episodic interventions, is one of the founding instruments of the cultural promotion of territories, which needs integrated skills and professionalism (Filograsso & Bini, 2017).

As clarified by the 2012 Final Report on Literatism, drawn up by a group of eleven high-level experts nominated by the European Commission, a “literate” context is one that recognizes the importance of language and supports the development of the literacy for all people, no matter of what age or socio-cultural background. It all starts with motivation. The first goal of a literary environment is to enhance motivation for reading and writing with pleasure. This requires that reading culture be cultivated, enhancing the visibility and accessibility of different paper and digital materials, and promoting reading in all its forms through a multitude of resources and offline and online media. The document repeatedly states that ‘the ability to read the world’ is an indispensable prerequisite for individual and collective well-being, and literacy for all is a minimum goal to be achieved for each advanced country. A goal which is even more urgent for today’s information society because, on the one hand, digitalization involves an increasingly more widespread use of the written word in social, civic and economic interaction, and on the other, the increase in mobility and migratory phenomena produce an evolution towards a multilingual society that requires increasingly more sound capacities to combine a wide range of cultural and linguistic scenarios. The concept of literacy is deeply interlinked with different dimensions, tied to computing, digital, and social skills. Research has recently highlighted the many implications that the term refers to – cognitive, affective, socio-cultural, creative and aesthetic: a faceted approach is inevitable, and is in fact linked to the levels defined in the OECD PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). While the primary goal remains the widest possible spread of basic literacy (PISA level 1), a starting point for functional literacy, enabling every European citizen to interact effectively in society and within the family, at home and at school, it is undeniable that the ambition of a quality literacy project, especially in educational contexts, is the acquisition of multiple literacy (PISA level 3): the ability that is to use reading and writing to produce, understand, interpret and critically evaluate multimodal texts, allowing access to the demand for a lifelong learning.

Teachers need a profound knowledge of reading and literacy processes, strategies for dealing with reading difficulties, and the ability, in particular, to use a mix of approaches to cater to the specific needs of individual pupils, stimulating their ability and motivation to read and write, transmitting interest and passion.

The school system should create a positive work environment: the countries with the highest levels of literacy not only have at disposal talented and well-trained teachers, but also teachers capable of taking key decisions on what to teach, how to teach it and what materials to use. This independence does not mean specializing in one or two didactic strategies, but in using a broad spectrum of integrated approaches based on the needs of individual pupils: it is a question of overcoming the univocal method in presenting disciplinary contents, integrating in particular the classroom taught lesson, still the most widespread form of sharing knowledge, with other types of intervention, able to stimulate the acquisition of specific skills, such as, for example, those tied to understanding the written text in its various forms, while at the same time stimulating, in every pupil, cognitive potential according to the forms most congenial to him/her, through a variety of stimuli (interactive lesson, small-group activity, etc.). No single teaching strategy works for all learners. Good teachers know this and adjust their teaching accordingly. Since there is no single best method for teaching literacy, all teachers should be familiar with a range of strategies. All students need the experience of success in meeting challenges so that they can develop their agency and sense of self-efficacy, and thus become more motivated to read, which in turn gives students opportunities to practice their reading literacy. The tendency to vary the stimuli and use a multiplicity of languages and methods is consistent with a school that aims at developing skills and is part of a line of intervention which can be identified in teaching to learn (Grossi, 2011).

Teachers therefore need a school environment where continuous training is promoted. The data of the 2006 survey Progress in International Reading Literacy Studies (PIRLS) indicate how attention to teaching to read during initial teacher training is correlated to a successful methodology in teaching to read and to greater participation in professional updating. According to the data of the 2008 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) of the OECD, however, the most common forms of professional development for reading, writing and literature teachers are short courses, seminars or conferences. In these circumstances, the identification of the right teaching approach is left entirely to the responsibility of the individual teacher and results can vary considerably depending on individual skills and initiative.

Training cannot end once young teachers are in the classroom. The best teachers are not just trained well, they are trained often, throughout their entire careers. Effective Continuous Professional Development gives teachers opportunities to reflect on their work in the classroom in light of research evidence about effective practice in teach-ing reading and writing. However, most European countries’ official curricular documents do not have clear guidelines on the competences that teachers need to teach reading and writing. Moreover, where such guidelines exist, they most often do not include core skills, such as tackling reading difficulties, assessment skills for reading, or selection of reading materials.

Digital literacy is a particular challenge. Teachers across Europe rank ICT skills as their second-largest training need. Member States need to make significant improve- ments in ICT-related teacher training, not least in the area of literacy, where ICT is very poorly integrated into peda- gogy. These issues should be a focus of more continuous professional development (CPD) programmes, and should also play a more central role in Initial Teacher Education.

2. Training the strategic reader: the role of the school

The role of the school, to be acted out in synergy with families, is central even before the instrumental teaching of reading and writing skills.

The development of oral language in small children is most important for their future acquisition of reading skills. Research shows that the promotion of phonemic and phonetic awareness at an early age, before any systematic teaching to read, is crucial for all subsequent learning. Most major European school curricula include learning goals or didactic contents at pre-primary level in order to develop initial skills. Today we know that the linguistic production of children who have regular experience with books is more complex and articulated: in particular, a knowledge of specific literature by parents and reading in a home environment represent a powerful vocabulary acquisition tool for the pre-reading child and a prediction factor as regards the acquisition of reading instrumentality. The social-emotional quality of parent-child interaction during reading sessions, along with the variety and richness of the vocabulary used represent a major stimulus for the development of literacy, which comprises, besides an increases in lexicon, also the construction of basic knowledge and the ability to make interferences, to link objects and actions and past and present experiences (Landry & Smith, 2006).

The factors tied to interaction contexts which, at home and at school, ought to trigger child play in a pleasant and stimulating atmosphere, not only represent a sound starting point for reading, but are also decisive as regards literacy results, bringing into play the acquisition of adequate strategies for the management of the reading moment which ought to belong to the workshop of the adult – parent or teacher – in a perspective of profitable interrelation between emotional dimension and development of literacy (Cardarello, 2004; De Temple, 2001).

Cooperation in a motivated environment, the level of involvement of the parent, the preference for dialogic reading, which facilitates the precocious internalization of the “grammar of the stories” and the construction of a mature narrative skill, increase learning and language-use opportunities, including in children of low social-economic background (Causa, 2002). The adult therefore represents a model of interaction with the text, and initiates the child to a form of interaction with it, presenting him/her with a framework of habits and thoughts whereby to tackle the text, which the child learns in an informal way.

In an infants’ school, reading a picture book is a complicated process, a cooperative negotiation of the meaning tied to the sense given to it by the group which listens, by the bond perceived between the figures and between the figures and the text, by the links identified between the illustrations and the life experience of the child and his/her knowledge. But it is beyond doubt that the preferred reading style of a teacher can orient, precisely like that of a mother, internalization and decoding processes internalized by pupils, with consequent differentiated literacy outcomes. In this respect, it is easy to understand that the text-to-life interactions of teachers, aimed at linking and applying the texts to children’s lives, revealing possible meanings and personal resonances, can make the book a precious tool for children’s use, to structure the experience of the world and life, and develop their psychological and social learning. In the perspective of emergent literacy and in particular the development of the child’s vocabulary, the research of Dickinson and Smith (1994) has examined the conduction of reading sessions of 25 infants’ school classes and identified three important models of interaction: co-constructive, analytic and interactive, distinguished by higher quality and quantity of exchanges between teacher and children, by comments and open questions of high cognitive level, didactic-interactional, based on text re-evocations of a more mechanical type, on closed questions and on interventions of an organization type essentially tied to class management, performance-oriented, in which the discussion of analytic type is concentrated before and after the story, for the reconstruction of the plot and the determination of understanding, including through comments and connections of the events with the experiences of pupils. Although, in the case of empirical checks, it is not always easy to clearly distinguish between one style and another, research showed that teachers often opt for a type of non-conscious interaction, depending on the book genre, for example, or familiarity with a story, while more information on the effects of verbal behaviour on early literacy components could more effectively direct their choices in response to the variables of the situation, the age of the children and the goals set (Del Carlo, 2014).

The benefits of a particular reading style in fact can be assessed in relation to the specific literacy skills to be developed, but also to the different initial levels of the children, inasmuch as, as Whitehurst points out, the gradual adaptation to the greater linguistic skills of the child (starting with the level of skill acquired by the child) is a decisive factor for a dialogue which is not artificial or stereotyped: only in these conditions is the adult role one of mediator and initiator of child communication (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2003).

As the 2011 Eurydice document Teaching reading in Europe: Contexts, Policies and Practices goes to show, since early childhood it is necessary to emphasize all the dimensions of the literacy concept, which includes cognitive aspects of reading (e.g., word decoding and text comprehension) and aspects which have to do with motivation and with engagement in written production. Research shows just how much involvement in reading contributes to the acquisition of reading skills, to be activated early through different strategies: collaborative learning based on texts, offering varied reading materials, allowing children to read what they prefer, visits to places where people value books, lists of authors, and flexible literary works that help to select books in line with the skills and inclinations of young readers.

According to the Eurydice Survey, only about a third of countries suggests or requires primary school teachers to teach five or six key strategies to improve pupil comprehension skills. The strategies already mentioned less frequently than others at primary level (i.e., the use of prior knowledge, self-monitoring and visual representations), as well as the metacognitive dimension in reading comprehension (i.e., self-examination of own reading processes by pupils) become rarer at lower secondary level. Self-monitoring comprehension and metacognitive dimension are, however, key aspects in training independent and highly competent readers.

According to the RAND reading study group (2002) reading comprehension should already be part of reading teaching aimed at beginner readers and not only a central element of teaching at post-primary level, after the readers have already amply learned to master word recognition skills. In particular, education in the fields of oral language, vocabulary and listening comprehension should start in pre-primary school and continue through primary school. As has been seen, in fact, social interaction and participation in literate communities – at home and in the classroom and in communities and a more ample social-cultural context – strengthen pupil motivation and help them form their identity as readers. The reading expert Richard Vacca (2002) describes the transition from the status of fluent reader to that of strategic reader, the reader who knows how to trigger the knowledge he/she already has, before, during and after reading; who knows how to decide what is more important in a text; who knows how to synthesize information, make deductions during and after reading, ask questions, self-examines and corrects him/herself. How does this transition occur? As appears from the meta-analysis of studies on teaching strategies of the National Reading Panel (2000), among the strategies for improving reading comprehension must be mentioned cooperative learning, comprehension monitoring, the use of graphic and semantic organizers, the acquisition of story structure and dialogue with teachers for an immediate feedback on the crucial aspects of texts.

Moreover, the National Reading Panel has observed that many of these strategies are more effective when they are used as part of a multiple-strategy method. The combined use of different strategies can lead to more effective learning, to better transmission of learning, to better memory and to better understanding in general.

Recent European research shows the benefits of reciprocal teaching in the reading comprehension of pupils of primary and secondary schools. Pupils with a range of different skills can benefit from collaborative learning, which can have particularly positive effects on readers with difficulties. One example of collaborative learning programme is the PALS, i.e. Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (2001) in which pupils work in pairs, reading in turn in a loud voice the one to the other and engaging in summary and prediction activities.

Equipping pupils with meta-cognitive instruments not only helps them to improve their reading comprehension, but also to build up confidence in themselves as readers, which in turn can increase their ‘motivation’ to read. A teaching activity which combines cognition and motivation can therefore optimize reading results. An approach which contemplates strengthening motivation through the use of cognitive strategies is that exemplified by the Concept Orientated Reading Instruction (CORI). The CORI aims at creating 'committed' readers intrinsically motivated to build knowledge through a multitude of texts, and which manage to apply cognitive reading comprehension strategies. (Guthrie, et al 1998).

The recent European project ‘ADORE – Teaching Struggling Adolescent Readers. A Comparative Study of Good Practices in European Countries’ (2009), has further examined reading teaching for adolescent readers in difficulty in eleven European Countries. The study concluded that for these pupils some of the major reading obstacles are to be found in the already-mentioned areas: reading comprehension, metacognitive skills, use of reading strategies and motivation to read (Garbe, Holle & Weinhold, 2009). A ‘Reading Instruction Cycle’ has subsequently been developed by the project as a model of good instruction, at the centre of which lies the superior goal of supporting a positive self-concept and self-efficacy in pupils. The key elements of this instruction cycle at the level of the classroom include involving pupils in planning the learning process, letting pupils choose their own reading materials, involving pupils in texts by allowing them to elaborate their personal answers and point of view, collaborating with their peers and teachers, teaching meta-cognitive strategies and developing self-regulative capacities to make their reading comprehension more conscious and strategic.

3. Reading in the digital age

As in the other areas of media, information and communication, digitisazion has profoundly shaken the field of producing, distributing and “consuming” textual content. The textual habitat by which we are influenced and which we ourselves produce already began undergoing significant changes at the end of the 20th century: while many fundamentals of traditional literacy based on language remain necessary, they no longer appear enough to develop the literacy practices that characterize the era of continuously-evolving information of the new millennium. We know that many children are already critically and functionally involved in traditional and electronic texts according to procedures which they often do not experiment at the time of starting school. Digital tools have lowered the costs of production and circulation, and more and more people have the capacity to take media into their own hands, creating and sharing what they know and how they see the world. The reading teacher, thus, has the obligation to help young people think more deeply about what it means to be a reader and an author in this world: we need to negotiate a new stance toward both print and digital culture, embracing new opportunities, even if we preserve old practices, texts and values (Jenkins, 2013).

As written in the european Report of EU member states experts (april 2016) Promoting reading in a digital environment, reading promotion policies in order to encourage access and audience development should combine democratic values (equality of access to information and freedom of expression), cultural values (pluralism of voices and creativity), social-educational values (inclusion and participation in literary/reading cultures). The digital environment offers strategies for achieving these goals and narrowing the partecipation gap: the unequal access to opportunities, experiences, skills, knowledge that will prapare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow.

D. Buckingham (2003) has noted how the supporters of media education have often resorted to the notion of literacy – mostly from the Eighties on – as a result of their attempt to integrate the new subject matter into literature studies: the term multiliteracy has indeed derived from the teachers’ understanding of the necessity to deal with a wide variety of media also when teaching literature and languages. In the twenty-first century the notion of literacy should be reconceived – as pointed out by Unsworth – as a plurality of literacies. As emerging technologies continue to affect the social construction of these multiple literacies, becoming literate is a more appropriate notion than being lieterate since it refers to a dynamic and endless process. The notion of multiliteracy not only refers to the possibilities offered by computer technology but, as well, to the growing role played by images both in electronic and conventional formats. It is furthermore connected with the need of distinguishing among forms of reproductive and critically reflective literacy practices. It is not a set of cognitive abilities provided once and for all, therefore, not a simple functional literacy to learn techniques and languages but a process implying the capacity for critical analysis, assessment and reflection. In order to become effective inter-actors in the emerging multiliteracies, students need to understand how the resources of language, image and digital communication can be developed independently and interactively to construct different types of meaning. This means developing competences relating to the construction of linguistic, visual and digital meaning.

In the graphically oriented, multimedia and digital world, the difference between images and words has become less clear-cut and readers need a metalanguage, a grammar, as a means for describing the forms and structures of different communication modes. A metalanguage recognizing that multimode forms for the construction of meaning fulfil specific functions which are largely determined by the cultural forces at work within a society.

G. Kress (2015) underlines how this growing tendency to multimodality inevitably transforms the way in which we teach how to constructs texts, and he hopes for a shift from a ‘verbocentric’ teaching approach – giving preference to the written word, so that seeing and saying are the same – characterised by the exclusivist supremacy of literacy and by the marginalization from the educational scenario of everything relating to body, touch, action, in addition to soul sparking off, feeling, affection (Maragliano, 2008), to the teaching of a broader capacity for designing and interpreting texts, called design literacy, meant as the basic expressive competence of modern age. Today, when constructing a text it is possible to choose by holding not only a full competence within the selected mode but also a full awareness of the features of the different available representing ways, of the different media and of the different ‘appearances sites’ of the message. Each aspect of the communication is subject to design, i.e. what has to be communicated, the modal carrying out of the message (as a word, as an image, as a moving image and as a sound) and the site of appearance (book, screen, website or the CD rom and so on).

The concept of design thus steers the reading path: when coming upon multimodal pages, contemporary readers carry out a kind of page modal scanning which provides information about the presence of different elements – bulks of writing and images – in order to assess the prevailing mode and the function carried out by each of the existing modes, both at the level of structure and at the level of their specific role in constructing meaning. Young readers used to read digital pages are guided by the principle of following relevance, i.e. the reading path is not a linear one but is rather determined according to the relevance criterion the readers apply to the page and, obviously, share with the community they belong to.

In traditionally organized texts, the task of reading was that of interpreting and transforming what was clearly organized within the text. The new task is instead that of applying the principle of relevance to a page which is (relatively) open as for its organization and, as such, provides many possible reading paths. The reader’s objective is, in the first case, that of observing and following a given order – and developing an interpretation within that order – while the new reader is being asked to build a new order through the relevance principle and then extract its meaning.

The very quality of imagination required by traditional reading was introspective and contemplative in its nature, while the new forms of reading require an action on the world, i.e. to impose the order of a reading path on what has to be read, on the basis of the reader's specific interests. In the new textualities, knowledge is no longer arranged in an ordered and sequential way but is frequently shaped by the reader himself/herself when establishing/constructing/imposing an order.  It is a very different way of interacting with the world and it has something to do with some characteristic aspects of contemporary reality, with its request for acquiring information and for linking portions of information on a horizontal area, progressively moving away from the canonical corpus of knowledge and moving towards the choice of information which is relevant in the immediate moment in order to meet precise goals.

New digital cultures provide support mechanisms that help young people improve their core skills as readers and writers. Alongside basic skills, however, new social skills and cultural skills are required (play, performance, transmedia navigation, collective intelligence, distributed knowledge, judgement, etc.), all of which the subject of special focus by the scholar Henry Jenkins (2010). A well-designed curriculum will help students to develop both the literary mind, as traditional conceived, and the new compentencies required to more meaningfully engage with the new partecipatory culture. Reading can be both personal and social, both public and private. Our expanded access to how other people read as we enter digital networks has left us with deeper appreciation of the breadth of different ways people make meaning form different texts. The traditional terms of today’s debate around reading are, therefore, overturned: we no longer ask ourselves what effects, positive or negative, the emergence of digital technologies have produced on children’s reading skills, but rather how we can use the skills and mental patterns being acquired by the younger generations through digital technologies to enhance their involvement in reading and in the interpretation of traditional texts. The goal, therefore, is to overcome a traditional approach to schooling, which sees reading as an individual act, aimed solely at understanding the author’s intent, and writing as a separate act aimed at demonstrating the mastery of interpretations accredited by official criticism, where “canonical” texts are generally proposed as rigid and isolated organisms which can only be understood with the guidance of an expert teacher able to offer him/herself as a reading model for the apprentice.

The participatory reading model proposed by Jenkins is, in fact, part of the assertion that readers are also, inevitably, writers, and that the author’s intent must be defined to a broader extent, so as to consider the writer in conversation with a wider collaborative culture: deep reading becomes an umbrella term for a wide range of creative and collaborative practices, a social construction activity of meaning, and literary works should be understood as fluid texts, existing in multiple versions and reflecting conversations, debates and interpretations which are both historical and contemporary. In the same way, therefore, teachers and students become apprentices and experts alike.

New media literacies build on older print-based literacies, expanding opportunieties for human expression, as more and more people pull knowledge and learning together within online networks, as teachers expand the learning ecosystem by connecting thei students to a larger community of readers, and as writers deploy new media-diverse modes of expression and experiment with new literary forms. Participatory reading becomes a matter not only of knowing how to respond to a text creatively and critically, but also of knowing how to create and circulate content, including a movement from a focus on personal to collective meaning-making: pooling individual insights can deepen the class’s collective comprehension of a text.

Creative expression, critical engagement and intellectual work are therefore conceived as part of an exchange, a dialogue that involves different prophecies, interpretations, points of view, which assigns to the term literacy a broader meaning, including strategies for reading, thinking, criticizing, and creating together.


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