Jim Anderson


Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
An examination of young children's digital literacy practices in the home before and during the transition to kindergarten (2018)

Many young children in western societies become literate in a world that relies heavily on digital technology. However, in early childhood education, play-based learning is typically the focus of curriculum and increased digital engagement by young children has caused concern among parents, educators and other key stakeholders. These concerns emanate from a belief that other activities (e.g., reading) are more constructive for young children. The purpose of this study was to describe young children’s digital tool use and engagement in digital literacy activities in the context of family life before, and as they transitioned into, kindergarten. Drawing from sociocultural theory, this case study of young children and their parents focused on two families’ digital literacy events in the context of their home over one year. Observed digital literacy events were analyzed using “literacy as a social practice” (Barton & Hamilton, 2000) to frame the social situations in which the children were developing their digital literacy. The findings indicate that these children engaged in digital activities and non-digital activities in a balanced manner and that they were active meaning makers while engaged with digital technology. Children moved fluidly between digital and non-digital spaces during their play, particularly during narrative play. Parents mediated and supported their children’s uses of digital media; however, rules governed which devices and content children could access, and for what length of time. Parents’ mediation styles concerning digital media did not change as children transitioned into kindergarten; however, peers influenced the children’s digital interests once they entered kindergarten. Parents were not frequent users of digital media and did not characterize engagement with digital tools as play, which led to tensions for mothers about whether to permit their young children to use digital media. This study provides an example of how three children accessed and used digital tools at home before as they transitioned to, kindergarten. It adds to evidence that screens do not dominate children’s lives. Policy makers and practitioners can use the insights from this study to recognize the ways that children and parents use digital tools in their homes as they consider curriculum, pedagogy, and policy.

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Mapping the early literacy ecology of children with disabilities in their homes and communities : perspectives from parents and children's librarians (2018)

While prior research has investigated the home and preschool literacy experiences of young children with significant disabilities (Craig, 1996; DesJardin, 2010; Flewitt, Nind, & Payler, 2009; Hadadian & Weikle, 2003; Marvin & Mirenda, 1993; Ricci, 2011), little is known about how families of children with disabilities interpret mainstream early literacy discourses, most of which presume normative child development, nor how they participate in community-based early literacy learning. While the work of children’s librarians has evolved to include a significant role in the early literacy movement (American Library Association, 2011; C. Ward, 2007), librarians’ impact on the early literacy experiences of children with disabilities remains largely unexplored. This critical study begins with an analysis of early literacy discourse (McTavish, 2012; Nichols, Nixon, & Rowsell, 2009; Smythe & Toohey, 2009) found in government, community and commercial spaces (including virtual spaces, i.e., websites) in a large urban community in British Columbia, Canada. The study then explores the perspectives of parents of children with disabilities as they consider how their children participate in early literacy experiences in the context of their daily lives and routines. The study concludes with an exploration of children’s librarians’ perspectives on providing early literacy programs and resources for young children with disabilities and their families, while parents share their experiences in public libraries with their children with disabilities. The purpose of this study was to explore how early literacy is supported by communities in the lives of families whose children have disabilities. The conclusion was that children with disabilities are under-represented in early literacy discourse and practice, and that enduring ableist practices may result in the exclusion of children from early literacy opportunities in their communities.

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School literacy as a catalyst : a portrait from multilingual, low-educated homes in Turkey (2017)

This study examines the catalyzing effect of school literacies to initiate changes in the two multilingual and un- or under-schooled families at a period of time when the focal children started school in Turkey. My research draws particularly upon four interrelated theoretical perspectives. First, the sociocultural-historical theory emphasizes the social, cultural, and historical basis of social interaction and literacy activities (Rogoff, 2003; Vygotsky, 1978). The ecological theory promotes the idea that literacy and literacy activities are determined by overlapping social and cultural niches (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; 2000; 2005). Finally, I focus on the applications of critical approaches to literacy studies, such as critical pedagogy theory (Freire & Macedo, 1987) and the sociocritical literacy framework (Gutiérrez, 2005; 2008; Gutiérrez, Rymes & Larson, 1995) to argue for links between social power and literacy and literacy activities. As for the methodological approach, this study can be defined as a case study using ethnographic techniques (Dyson & Genishi, 2005). The data were collected through semi-structured interviews and participatory observations both in the homes and in the school. Data analysis includes discourse analysis to identify salient themes about how language is used to perform social identities and social activities (Gee, 2005; Marshall & Rossman, 2011). The findings point out that, first, the religious literacy skills in one focal family were recontextualized to make some connections with school, which was not a familiar domain for the family. Second, I provide evidence for the ways in which school-based abilities determined the categories of identity as forms of favorable and unfavorable self-definition for the focal participants, providing the focal children with a space to challenge the authority of their parents. This qualitative study is an attempt to understand how focal participants took positions, and negotiated their identities with one another based on their abilities to read and write. My study will shed light on the educational experiences of children, together with their families, who are marginalized as a result of having little or no formal education and speaking minority languages.

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Making connections : literacy practices of Karen refugee families in the home, community, and family literacy program (2016)

Critics of family literacy programs within culturally and linguistically diverse communities have long argued that these programs simply transmit school-like practices into the homes of participating families (Auerbach, 1989; Reyes & Torres, 2007). Although sociocultural researchers have demonstrated that family literacy programs can and do reflect the sociocultural realities of immigrant and refugee families, without descriptions of how literacy is enacted, it is difficult to determine if practices specific to one context are taken up within the other. The purpose of this study is to document and describe the contextualized literacy practices of families within a community of resettled Karen refugees while they participate in a bilingual family literacy program in an urban centre in western Canada.Drawing from sociocultural theory, this ethnographic case study of parents and their pre-school aged children focuses on the families’ enactment of literacy events mediating social activity during play in two early learning settings: the home and a bilingual family literacy program. Observed literacy events were analyzed through the lens of the activity system (Engeström, 2001) in order to identify the meditational means the participants used to create and re-create situated practice (Gutiérrez, Baquedano‐López, & Tejeda, 1999) during play. The findings suggest that, through their participation in the program, the Karen parents came to understand activity within the social activity domain of play as fostering the early literacy development of their pre-school aged children. However, rather than abandoning traditional learning practices, by drawing from culturally formed tools and culturally specific participant structures, the Karen parents transformed situated practice with the result being an expanded form of social activity during play in both the home and in the family literacy program.This study enhances our understanding of how literacy events are enacted in the homes of the resettled Karen refugee families and in the bilingual family literacy program in which they participate. Administrators and facilitators responsible for the delivery of family literacy programs within culturally and linguistically diverse communities can draw from insights generated from this study to ensure their programming recognizes and values the diverse meditational means participating families bring to the program.

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Parent-child shared reading : the affordances of print, digital, and hand-held electronic storybooks (2014)

This study examines affordances of books involving different media in parent-child shared reading. Children and families increasingly use books and other literacy materials in digital format (Unsworth, 2006) in addition to those in traditional print/paper format. Although there have been studies about parent-child shared reading of digital books, the present study, by employing systemic functional linguistics (SFL) as the analytic tool, provides more in-depth and nuanced understandings of how different digital/physical features of books are related to types (e.g., questions) and processes (e.g., ways to build meanings) of parent-child interactions during shared reading.Based on Vygotsky’s socio-historical development theory and SFL, this study examines the verbal interactions of 20 dyads and their construction and negotiation of meanings while sharing of different books (one print [PB], one electronic [LB] and two digital books [DB1 and DB2]). The analysis revealed that the dyads used certain types of talk considered to encourage expansion of children’s thinking more often in the PB and LB contexts than in the other two contexts. Also, the dyads had more sustained interactions in the PB and LB contexts, which allowed them to negotiate meanings through these conversations and discussions. Furthermore, the foci of the dyads’ talk were different across the contexts: some digital features of the LB and DB1 appeared to lead the talk more towards technical aspects rather than towards the meaning of the stories. These findings further suggest that shared reading of different formats of books provide children with different learning opportunities.The study enhances our understanding of differences in parent-child verbal interactions, and of contextual elements, as well as the relationship between the two. These in-depth understandings suggest implications for the development of better quality digital books, and for more productive uses of digital books at home and school. Moreover, the study provides further evidence of an alternative way to examine parent-child verbal interactions (cf. Hasan, 1989; Williams, 1994) by utilizing SFL, which allows researchers to examine interactions (e.g., questioning) and contexts (e.g., focus of talk) in detail. This detailed examination, in turn, complements the analysis of language in Vygotsky’s theory.

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A comparative case study of two urban Aboriginal children's meaning making across home, school, and community contexts (2011)

In the field of early childhood literacy, researchers have begun to investigate the ways contemporary childhoods are being shaped by a range of multimodal communicative practices (Kress, 2003; Lankshear & Knobel, 2003; Marsh, 2003b). The link between children’s use of these practices, many of which are linked to digital technologies and global discourses, and their identity construction, is also being examined in the new millennium. The changing communication systems of the twenty-first century are also influencing the ways urban Aboriginal children make meaning in their worlds, and are impacting Aboriginal children’s identities. Drawing on a sociocultural theory of learning, the purpose of this qualitative comparative case study is to investigate the complexity of the everyday communicative practices utilized by two, six-year-old urban Aboriginal children in and out-of-school, in an attempt to inform the future direction of literacy curricula for young Aboriginal children. Acquiring insight into Aboriginal children’s meaning making is also vital to challenging and replacing long-standing deficit notions held by society and mainstream schools about Aboriginal students’ inferiority and ineducability. This is particularly relevant as the urban Aboriginal student population rises in the province of Saskatchewan. The findings revealed the focal children’s homes to be vibrant, multimodal textual spaces in which the children were supported by their family members as they engaged in a range of communicative practices for multiple purposes. The findings also revealed the link between the dynamic and evolving nature of Indigenous knowledge and the families’ meaning making. Further, the findings showed how the practices valued and promoted in the focal children’s classroom generally reflected traditional and narrow modes of communication, specifically, print-based and teacher-directed practices, and also included superficial, rudimentary aspects of Aboriginal culture. This study offers new suggestions on the ways in which Aboriginal children’s out-of-school communicative practices, specifically those practices linked to digital technology, can be included in early childhood classrooms in culturally-relevant ways.

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Exploring the reading non-engagement of two grade six students during sustained silent reading (2010)

The purpose of this study was to investigate notions of engagement and non-engagement within sustained silent reading (SSR) in a grade six classroom in a metropolitan city in one of Canada’s western provinces. The study explored what two students, identified by their teacher as non-engaged during SSR, had to say about SSR and reading. The study also identified factors that appeared to influence the children’s SSR non-engagement.The students were observed during SSR over seven-and-a-half weeks. Each child participated in seven semi-structured interviews with the researcher, for a total of two hours of semi-structured interviews each. Other data collection methods were employed. Amongst other things, the students were observed in other classroom contexts. The students also completed an attitude survey. The things the students said were categorised. Despite 17 categories, the top 3 categories accounted for almost half of all the things the students said. Almost one-fifth (18.01%) of ideas were social remarks. The next highest ranks were remarks classified as discussion of text content (16.33%) and strategy use (12.4%). These figures and other data suggested that, although the students often were non-engaged during SSR, they were engaged readers in some settings, at some times. Although much of the research literature describes readers as engaged or not, this study demonstrated that such a view may be too simplistic. Based upon a variety of data sources, 11 factors were identified that appeared to have contributed to the students’ non-engagement. These factors included the expectation of silence, as well as problematic perceptions of the purpose of SSR. Low motivation, limited perceptions of the usefulness of reading, and negative attitudes all seemed to contribute to the students’ non-engagement. Other contributing factors appeared related to the classroom structure; for instance, the classroom library housed only limited attractive text options. There was also a limited sense of a classroom literacy community. In light of these findings, the author suggests the need to reconsider the one-size-fits-all model of SSR. Suggestions are provided for ways that teachers might restructure classroom reading in order to increase the likelihood of student engagement.

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Reading and rethinking : the cultural production of reading and readers in research interviews with parents and teachers (2008)

Recent research suggests the need to study how literacy and social in/equality areproduced in social interaction. This dissertation focuses on the cultural production of“reading” and “readers” as one aspect of the cultural production of literacy. Usingtheories of cultural production, socio-cultural and socio-linguistic theories of literacy andethnomethodological analyses of talk, this study examines the ways that parents, teachersand a teacher-librarian-researcher produce the construct “reading”, the category “readers”and social in/equality in the context of “research interviews” for a “university study onliteracy”. The analysis presented here suggests that the participants co-constructedreading in a variety of ways. The most common method for producing or constructingreading was to “gloss” reading or to treat it as self-explanatory. A small portion of thedata produced reading via alternative constructions including treating reading as a“puzzle”. Analysis suggests this data can tell us more about the institutions of schooling,research and “the interview” than it can about participants’ literacy practices. In addition,this analysis suggests that participants produced social relations and values in andthrough their talk of reading. The production of un-equal social relations and unegalitarian values could be seen most clearly in the ways that the teacher-librarianresearcher was consistently positioned as an arbiter of reading/readers. However, someinteractions revealed the production of more equal social relations and more egalitarianvalues. Implications and directions for educators, teacher-educators, teacher-librarians,policy writers, researchers, parents and other stakeholders interested in qualitativeresearch methods, reading/literaêy education, social in/equality are discussed.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Expanding the circle : collaborative research to create culturally responsive family literacy programming (2013)

This thesis documents the creation of a family literacy program developed with, and for, a Haida community on the Northwest Coast of British Columbia. The field of family literacy is juxtaposed with the historical and contemporary school experiences of the community and presented as a means of addressing the imbalance between Indigenous and Western knowledge systems currently offered through the public education system. Both Indigenous and Western research methods are utilized through a process designed to involve the community in the reconstruction of an already-existing community family literacy program, PALS (Parents as Literacy Supporters). The metaphor of a circle, representing the six Haida values of interconnectedness, seeking wise counsel, reciprocity, balance, respect, and responsibility, is used to guide the research in addition to serving as the foundation for a new, culturally responsive, version of PALS.

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Recent Tri-Agency Grants

The following is a selection of grants for which the faculty member was principal investigator or co-investigator. Currently, the list only covers Canadian Tri-Agency grants from years 2013/14-2016/17 and excludes grants from any other agencies.

  • Connecting international and Canadian scholars, teachers, and community educators to address digital equity: Access, ethics and engagement in digital language and literacy research and practice - Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) - Connection Program (2015/2016)
  • Young children's engagement with digital tools and technology at home and in the community - Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) - Insight Grants (2013/2014)

Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.

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