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About Us

Welcome to the Centre for Literacy and Social Justice at The Open University (OU).

Aligning to the OU’s mission of being open to people, places, methods and ideas, the centre aims to understand and influence how literacy in its broadest sense can open up children’s worlds. 

The Mission

Grounded in The Open University’s historic legacy in respect of education and social justice, the Centre for Literacy and Social Justice is building systemic, collaborative capacity - within and between teachers, schools and homes - in order to address inequity for young readers and writers

The need to address inequalities in children’s literacy experiences - openly and strategically - has never been more urgent. To remediate the injustices derived from and evident in the intersections between, gender, racial and social class injustices, environmental crises, poverty and the Covid-19 pandemic, we need profound change. This change needs to be structural and systematic, operating at institutional, interpersonal and individual levels.

With a commitment to openness to people, places, methods and ideas, the Centre creates space for research, practice and advocacy that enriches educational opportunities for all and has the potential to transform young lives at scale.

Our interdisciplinary team is shaping contemporary understandings of children’s diverse literacy lives, identities and practices, particularly with reference to volitional reading and writing. The work foregrounds their agency, creativity and voice in diverse modes and media and attends to the constraints and affordances of professional knowledge and practice, and the impact of these on children’s engagement in literacy communities.

The Team

Portrait of Dr Jen Aggleton Portrait of Dr Liz Chamberlain Portrait of Prof Teresa Cremin Portrait of Dr Amelia Hempel-Jorgensen

Dr Jen Aggleton

Dr Liz Chamberlain

Prof Teresa Cremin

Dr Amelia Hempel-Jorgensen

Portrait of Dr Helen Hendry Portrait of Dr Fiona Henry Portrait of Ms Stephanie Hilder Portrait of Dr Joanne Josephidou
Dr Helen Hendry


Dr Fiona Henry Ms Stephanie Hilder

Dr Joanne Josephidou

Portrait of Prof Natalia Kucirkova Portrait of Dr Sarah Jane Mukherjee Portrait of Dr Lucy Rodriguez Leon Portrait of Dr Kimberly Safford
Prof Natalia Kucirkova Dr Sarah Jane Mukherjee Dr Lucy Rodriguez Leon Dr Kimberly Safford
Dr Claire Saunders Portrait of Dr Alison Twiner Portrait of Petra Vackova
Dr Claire Saunders Dr Dana Therova Dr Alison Twiner Dr Petra Vackova


The Vision

The Centre’s work, underpinned by our field-leading research, evidences the value of rethinking professional, social and moral responsibilities. It is exemplified by attention to teachers’ subject knowledge of children’s texts, the craft of writing, professional practice that is affective and relational, and of children themselves as young literate beings who express their ideas in multiple communication forms and technologies.

Designed specifically to configure a nexus of such diverse knowledge and understanding, our research and practice Centre is developing dynamic partnerships and programmes of continuing professional development that are of significance in relation to impacting positively on literacy and social justice. Centre staff combine both academic and professional expertise ensuring our research is rigorous, systematic, pragmatic and applied, contributing to knowledge, professional practice and policy.

With research grants from major national and international funding bodies, Centre members conduct research at the cutting edge of children’s multimedia and multisensory reading. Currently too, members are also working with the DfE English Hubs and their partner schools to realise the vision of creating rich reading cultures and with 100+ volunteer teachers who lead an Open University/United Kingdom Literacy Association Teacher Reading Groups nationally. In addition, the Centre is the research partner on Mercer’s three-year project examining the approaches and methodologies deployed by literacy charities that nurture reading and writing for pleasure.

In creating space for innovation, the Centre is supporting teachers in building upon the cultural, linguistic and social assets that children bring to school and will advance this work through research that contributes to de-colonising education and reframing the curriculum.

Advisory Board

Portrait of Prof Barbara Comber Portrait of Gerard Darby Portrait of Megan Dixon Portrait of Gemma Moss Portrait of Marilyn Mottram

Prof Barbara Comber

Gerard Darby

Megan Dixon

Prof Gemma Moss 

Marilyn Mottram

Dean of Research,
UniSA Education Futures

Australian Catholic University, Sydney

Grants Programme Manager

Hammersmith United Charities


Director of Aspirer Research School,
Sandbach Primary Academy

Professor of Literacy,
and Director of the International Literacy Centre

University College London

Former HMI
and Deputy National Lead for English (Ofsted)


The Centre for Literacy and Social Justice seeks to explore, understand and shape contemporary understandings of literacy as historically, culturally and socially constructed, recognising that some literacy practices are rendered more visible and dominant than others.  Our work is enabled through a substantial number of collaborations, with colleagues whose work is aligned with our literacy and social justice focus.  These collaborations may be through joint symposia at conferences, co-authored publications, or research/ project partners.  In all, we appreciate enormously the enduring relationships that we have built over time.  

Our Associate Members are invited to meetings and seminars, and through the membership, we hope to develop new bids and stronger relationships in turn strengthening new teams and networks of academics nationally and internationally to advance the field through world-class empirical research. 

Dr Mary-louise Maynes Senior Lecturer Early Childhood Studies Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln
Professor Samantha Twiselton Director of Sheffield Institute of Education (SIoE) Sheffield Hallam University
Dr Fiona Maine Senior Lecturer in Literacy Education Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Dr Victoria Cooper Senior Lecturer, Childhood and Youth Studies The Open University
Dr Eve Bearne Consultant formally Cambridge University
Dr Rachael Levy Associate Professor Institute of Education, University College London
Dr Julia Gillen Director of the Literacy Research Centre and Senior Lecturer in Digital Literacies Lancaster University
Ali Mawle Director of Learning and Public Engagement Cheltenham Festivals
Paul Flemming Senior Regional Advisor Education Scotland  
Dr Sarah Stewart Director of PGCE Programme in Wales The Open University
Adrian Copping PGCE Primary Programme Leader Institute of Education, University of Cumbria
Dr Paula Stone Senior Lecturer School of Humanities and Educational Studies Canterbury Christ Church University
Liz Pemberton Director The Black Nursery Manager (Training and Consultancy) Ltd
Dr Nia Cole Jones Welsh Curriculum Tutor The Open University
Dr Helen Casey Staff Tutor, Social Work The Open University
Dr Christopher Owen LGBTQ+ Coordinator 42nd Street
Darren Chetty Author, Teaching Fellow Institute of Education, University College London
Professor Kwame Akyeampong Professor of International Education and Development The Open University


Dr Anezka Kuzmicova Senior Researcher Department of Czech Language & Theory of Communication, Charles University, Czech Republic
Dr Juli-Anna Aerila Senior Lecturer (Didactics of Mother Tongue and Literature) University of Turku, Finland
Dr Johanna Lahteela Lecturer (Education) University of Turku, Finland
Associate Prof Eithne Kennedy Associate Professor (Literacy Studies) School of Language, Literacy and Early Childhood Education, Dublin City University
Associate Professor  Laura Scholes Associate Professor, ACU  & Principal Research Fellow, Australian Research Council Educational Semiotics in English and Literacy Pedagogy, Australian Catholic University
Dr Belinda Mendelowitz Senior Lecturer University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Dr Elizabeth Erling Senior Lecturer University of Vienna
Associate Prof Stig-Borje Asplund Associate Prof Department of Educational Studies Karlstad University, Sweden
Professor Jan Lacina Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Texas Christian University

Professor Emerita Robyn Ewing

Co-Director Creativity in Research, Engaging the Arts, Transforming Education (CREATE) Centre Sydney School of Education and Social Work, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences