Language and literacy in faith settings and their relationship to the school setting

Jessel, John; Woodham, Malgorzata and Gregory, Eve E.. 2010. 'Language and literacy in faith settings and their relationship to the school setting'. In: Bilingualism and multilingualism in school settings : teaching, learning and testing, 11th Biennial University of Seville Conference. Seville, Spain. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This presentation focuses on the bilingualism and multilingualism that occur in settings that relate to four different faith groups (Polish Catholic, West African Pentecostalist, Tamil Hindu and Bangladeshi Muslim) that have grown considerably in importance in London since the mid–twentieth century. Literacy learning that occurs in faith settings in the UK remains largely under-researched and we report on work carried out as part of a current three-year ESRC-funded project* involving families with children between 5 and 12 years of age who have migrated to Britain and regularly attend faith meetings in London. Ethnographic observations and interviews in faith settings will be used to produce descriptions of different faith literacy practices involving children, including services and religious instruction classes. From these an inventory of activities taking place will be developed and codified in terms of such factors as the languages involved and the ways in which children participate. We will examine the use of symbolism, metaphor, story telling and re-telling, performing and recitation. The unique multilingual environments offered by faith settings allow theoretical insights on literacy learning to be extended and to this end we will draw on neo-Vygotskian and sociocultural theory, considering critically how concepts such as ‘syncretism’ apply in relation to how language is exchanged and transformed creatively. The implications of this work for practice and policy will be summarised. By examining the teaching and learning taking place during activities across the different faith settings we will consider how these co-exist with, contribute to and extend the notion of the school setting and in turn impact on the language and literacy learning taking place.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Additional Information:

ESRC Grant: RES-062-23-1613.


linguistics; linguistic analysis; language; literacy; adult literacy; faith; schools; bilingualism; multilingualism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


18 March 2010Completed

Event Location:

Seville, Spain

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

05 Sep 2014 08:32

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 09:22


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