Summary of project

A highly significant area of out-of-school learning that remains invisible to teachers in the UK is that taking place in faith settings. This is paradoxical, since we know that faith literacies play a very important role in the lives of many families who have recently migrated to London. At the same time, government reports are urging teachers to reach out to their communities in order to promote social cohesion. It would seem to be a matter of urgency for teachers to know more about children's skills and knowledge developed through faith literacies if this aim is to become a reality in school. The purpose of this study was to examine what it means for children to become literate through faith activities in London.

London holds a unique position, hosting the largest number of faith communities in the UK. Our aim has been to examine the scope and nature as well as what it means in children's lives to participate in faith literacy activities. The research has taken place over three years with sixteen families from four faiths that are highly significant in the lives of newcomers who have migrated since the mid twentieth century: the West African Pentecostalist, the Tamil Hindu, the Bangladeshi Muslim and the Polish Catholic communities. Using collaborative ethnography, whereby we involved both children and older people over 50 actively in the research, our work has documented a wide range of home and faith setting activities taking place, as well as a considerable scope of knowledge and skills being developed.

After building up a detailed picture of literacy practices in each setting, we documented and analysed ways in which 4 children aged between 5 and 12 in each setting went about learning in both formal and informal contexts. In each setting, we examined the languages used in oral and written activities, the nature and language of texts and the interaction between the participants. We then invited four people over 50 (possibly the children's grandparents) from each setting to partner one of the three children in composing and recording a 'then and now' book together. Researchers prepared the children to interview the older people on their memories of faith literacy when young as well as the importance of this in shaping their past and present lives.