In Pursuit of Multiliteracies

My library hosts multimodal texts as naturally as it welcomes student life.

Paintings, drawings, and installations abound. Students sing on Fridays for our performance series. The student news publication lives in the center of our public space. A video game cabinet built and designed by students will soon host digital curiosities.

At every turn, I push the capacity of my library to nurture varied literacy practices. I laud laughter. I bemoan summer’s silence. I recorded an album in the center of the library to attest to its cracking good acoustics.

A pursuit of dense texts is premised on an idea espoused by the New London Group (NLG):

The NLG assumed that learning about increasingly complex forms and varieties of languages, texts, and modalities involved in meaning making, as well as opportunities to participate in the redesign of these texts and practices, would help people improve their lives. (14)

School libraries need to be open spaces that help students learn to communicate in sophisticated ways. By opening up space to a wide variety of textual production, libraries nurture multiliteracies—spaces for communication and representation.

If you’re interested in understanding, pursuing, and promoting multiliteracies in your library, I highly recommend the new book from Teacher’s College Press, Remixing Multiliteracies: Theory and Practice from New London to New Times. The book defines multiliteracies as:

The reconceptualization of literacy as a multidimensional set of competencies and social practices in response to the increasing complexity and multimodal nature of texts. This concept suggests literacy is not a single, cognitive set of skills, rather an array of social practices that extend beyond reading and writing printed text. (200)

The book also describes the work of the New London Group and details its developments since its inception in the mid-1990s. Not only do the chapters provide librarians ample food for thought, they also help to contextualize the work of the NLG, an extremely influential group of literacy educators, linguists, and educational researchers.

A compelling aspect of the book is that it was inspired by Frank Serafini’s 2015 seminar on multiliteracies held at Arizona State University. I like that a collaborative work of scholarship can become an outcome of a course of study. It points to the lasting effects of a good class, how ideas thrive in collaboration, and the social nature of scholarship. It inspires me to think about my own pedagogy and wonder what sort of varied outcomes I might pursue with my students.

Have you read the book? How are you pursuing multiliteracies in your library? Leave a comment below.


Author: Mark Dzula

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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