Kucer, S. (2014) Dimensions of Literacy: A conceptual base for teaching reading and writing in school settings 4th Edition London: Routledge

ISBN: 978 0 415 82646 4

372 pages         


This book is well structured and guides the reader through the inter-relationship between four key themes relating to literacy:

  • the Linguistic and Other Sign Systems Dimensions of Literacy;
  • the Cognitive Dimension of Literacy;
  • the Sociocultural Dimension of Literacy and
  • the Developmental Dimension of Literacy.

Each theme considers key theoretical perspectives pertaining to them which are then clarified and explained, through research and practical education based examples, in order to be more accessible to the reader.

Within the first section the author reflects on the nature of language itself and in particular how it is being transformed in relation to 21st Century literacy, challenging the nature of the linear processing of reading from a tradition paper-based text when accessing web-based reading material or multimodal texts. The author explores the complexity of the relationship between spoken and written language and in particular the inconsistency and confusion within the English language graphophonic system. The chapter relating to language variations offers an open and frank discussion on the importance of dialect and home language and questions the emphasis within the American school system of the exclusive importance of formal Standard English whilst disregarding dialect and home language as ‘inferior’.

The second section examines the debate pertaining to reading theories and teaching strategies highlighting the ongoing debate surrounding how reading should be taught in school. This is particularly relevant in light of the debate surrounding systematic phonics as the sole method to teach reading. Subsequent sections guide the reader through the complexities pertaining to the writing process: the physical processes required, cognitive development and the sociocultural perspectives of language. The concluding chapter draws together each of the four dimensions and relates it to the role adults play in supporting children through the complexities of language.

The author has drawn on theories from an extensive range of international academic research relating to speaking and listening, reading and writing. It clearly considers the potential impact of new/digital literacies for 21st Century learners and how educationalists need to reflect on whether  children may be acquiring and using languages differently as a consequence. There is significant reference to bilingual learners, opening up the debate on how this should be best taken into consideration within the classroom setting.

Whilst predominantly reviewing existing theories, this book also attempts to create a new theory based on a meta-analysis or synthesis of past and current theories relating to dimensions within literacy. It draws on a wealth of research and practical examples and makes an excellent contribution to the knowledge explaining links between theory and practice, emphasising the need for all teachers to be able to realise the importance of theory when considering effective approaches to teaching literacy.

It is a comprehensive text primarily aimed at trainee teachers, practising teachers and lecturers in initial teacher education. It would be most useful for trainees in their final year, postgraduate students and those working at Master’s level to extend awareness on the importance of understanding theoretical principles and relating them to their own classroom practice in the teaching of English.  The reader would be advised to read the chapters in the intended order as each chapter builds upon the previous concepts.

The section relating to reading is particularly relevant in the current political debate on teaching early reading. It would serve to deepen teachers’ criticality of their own practice, enabling them to articulate and justify their approaches and rationale, particularly in the current climate of teacher accountability.

Angela Sawyer, Senior Lecturer Primary English ITE, Newman University