Mind the Gap?: Children's Domestic Writings and Their Implications for Educational Practice

Travers, Joan. 2009. Mind the Gap?: Children's Domestic Writings and Their Implications for Educational Practice. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This study, situated in the field of sociocultural research, investigates how the home supports the writing development of my multilingual daughter, Pia, between the ages of 3-9 years old.

Using ethnographic methods, data is gathered at Pia's home, where approximately eight hundred unsolicited texts written in English, French and German are supplemented by fieldnotes, conversational and photographic data. Data is also collected at Pia's bilingual, French-German school in order to assess institutional contributions to Pia's writing development during reception class and Year One. As a final measure, data is also gathered on the domestic literacy practices of Pia's classmates and their families so that we may put the findings on a single child into perspective.

The findings confirm that homes and schools place different emphasis on the physical, social and psychological features inherent in literacy-related interactions. The result is a gap between the messages homes and schools transmit about the purposes of writing. At home, literacy is used rather than explicitly taught. The implicit, holistic nature of family dynamics fosters Pia's experience of writing as socially embedded practice, driven by her very real need to communicate with family members and friends in her environment. At school, by contrast, the child is positioned as an apprentice, who experiences writing more as an abstract cognitive skill. Significantly, Pia's domestic writing is in advance of curricular expectations. This seems to suggest that implicit teaching strategies, coupled to a re-evaluation of the physical, social and psychological aspects of classroom literacy, may be useful in enhancing writing activities within schools. The implicit character of domestic literacy, however, taking place on the margins of awareness, not only largely accounts for why children may find it hard to talk about their domestic literacy practices, but also explains why such practices remain unseen, and, consequently, unacknowledged.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



multilingual children, school, home, domestic writing, domestic literacy, teaching, sociocultural research, ethnographic research

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Jun 2020 08:38

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:41



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