Opening of the conference by Susan Møller

Another wonderful event is behind us!

Literacy conferences are mentally very rich events, as these are the meeting grounds for theory and practice. Same issues will be approached from different angles, which can be a surprisingly enriching experience. 

This was the case also at the 18th Nordic Literacy Conference and the 21st European Conference on Literacy, held in Copenhagen 4-7 August 2019. The main topic was „Learning from the Past for the Future: Literacy for All“. It was even more important to remember the past, as the first conference of this kind had been held in the very same place and building in Efterslægten 70 years prior. This contributed to the solemn feeling, which was further intensified by the wonderful custom of the Danes to start and finish events with joint singing.

Conference topics coincided with the main points of the European Declaration of the Right to Literacy, which still enabled quite varied approaches.

The most noticeable leads in the presentations included the following:

  • From the get-go it is important to cooperate with children in order to incite them to speak, read, write; for that the key is to use sincere and warm communication, to really take into account children’s proposals and to support their game ideas, as shown by Anneli Laamann, Terje Äkke and James Nageldinger.
  • The basis of literacy is good command of the native language and if there are not enough participants to form a native language study group, it is also possible to have multilingual native language lessons, as practiced by Larissa Aksinovitš and Pipsa Airto near Helsinki in Tuusula.
  • It is possible to support families and teach them how to have a joint intellectual life with their children, for example, through family readings. These are part of the national programs in countries where such programs joining literacy projects have been created. At the conference, programs in Portugal and Russia were introduced.
  • Teachers of all subjects support the development of literacy among children and youth, including teaching digital literacy. We were introduced to a wonderful multimodal reading course in the subject of history by the keynote speaker Byeong-Young Cho, and some thought provoking examples were given by Merilin Aruvee.
  • Teaching literacy is part of civic education, where students must be able to learn in real life communication situations and things that are really vital. For example, to research history through interviewing their grandparents – from the project „Young Researchers of Family History“ by Estonian teachers Tiina Kivimäe, Heli Prii and Eve Krais.
  • Teacher is as much of a student as the students themselves are, and in both cases it is important to self-monitor your development.
  • Even though digital means are considered a norm in the modern education, it is not clear enough how to teach composing texts in digital version and how to analyze the structure of such texts. Not all skills can be transferred from the so-called traditional didactics. Digital reading and writing presupposes new didactical approaches, as demonstrated by Jodi Pilgrim and Sheri Vasinda.

In addition to the already mentioned Estonian experts, presentations were given also by Helin Puksand and Mare Müürsepp.

A big thank you to the organisers from the Danish Reading Association, especially Susan Møller and Thomas Ais Christensen. The conference in Copenhagen was a great introduction ground for our future conference „Searching for a Common Language“ in January 2020, as we were able to introduce our conference and Estonia is general face to face when meeting with participants, among whom there were many whose teaching and research would find an excellent output in Tallinn.

In the photos you can see speakers from Estonia, as well as our good colleagues from Finland, Latvia and elsewhere, conference main organizer Susan Møller and one of the keynote speakers Carsten Elbro.

Impressions by Mare Müürsepp