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 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.

The CLSJ actively promotes and engages in the Open University’s membership of the Fair Education Alliance (FEA). The FEA is a collaboration of over 250 commercial, charitable and NGO organisations joined in a mission to make sure a child’s success is not limited by their socio-economic background. In particular,  we support the FEA goal to ‘narrow the gap in literacy at Primary School’.

Fair Education Alliance logo