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Print Literacy Development

Print Literacy Development

Uniting Cognitive and Social Practice Theories

Victoria Purcell-Gates, Erik Jacobson, Sophie Degener

ISBN 9780674022546

Publication date: 09/01/2006

Is literacy a social and cultural practice, or a set of cognitive skills to be learned and applied? Literacy researchers, who have differed sharply on this question, will welcome this book, which is the first to address the critical divide. The authors lucidly explain how we develop our abilities to read and write and offer a unified theory of literacy development that places cognitive development within a sociocultural context of literacy practices. Drawing on research that reveals connections between literacy as it is practiced outside of school and as it is taught in school, the authors argue that students learn to read and write through the knowledge and skills that they bring with them to the classroom as well as from the ways that literacy is practiced in their own different social communities.

The authors argue that until literacy development can be understood in this broader way educators will never be able to develop truly effective literacy instruction for the broad range of sociocultural communities served by schools.


  • After researching the characteristics of adult literacy students in the U.S., the authors reject the implications that the cognitive perspectives of Jeanne Chall and the social perspectives of James Gee are independent and incommensurable. The primary goal of this volume is to reconnect the two perspectives of social and cognitive researchers and, hopefully, provide a better account for literacy development… The authors [argue] that adults learn to read and write through instruction that builds on the literacy worlds in the classroom and in their social worlds.

    —D. Pellegrino, Choice


  • Victoria Purcell-Gates is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia.
  • Erik Jacobson is an Assistant Professor at Montclair State University.
  • Sophie Degener is a Research Associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Book Details

  • 218 pages
  • 0-9/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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