Symbols, Literacy and Social Justice

An internationally focused book about symbols and literacy

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Symbols, Literacy and Social Justice looks at the role of symbols in supporting access to literacy, learning and information. It argues that such access is essential to social justice.

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The book is in two parts. The first part, Symbols in use: supporting literacy and social justice is a set of 26 case studies from around the world, identified with the help of ISAAC, The International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication. These case studies show many types of symbol usage in different social contexts. The second part, Understanding symbol literacy practices: towards social inclusion, draws together the issues that are raised in the case studies. It looks at the historical development of symbols for literacy, types of symbol usage and the impact of technology. This is followed by an extensive discussion on current issues in symbol use, based upon the case studies.

This book builds on two previous books: Literacy Through Symbols, by Tina and Mike Detheridge, published by David Fulton (Second edition 2002) and Symbols Now, by Chris Abbott, published by Widgit Software (2000). Symbols, Literacy and Social Justice, presents an international picture, updated to address current issues of social justice and inclusion.

Like its predecessors Symbols, Literacy and Social Justice is written in an informal style. This means that it is appropriate for parents and carers as well as professionals. It introduces the fundamental ideas for newcomers to the field, but raises questions and discussion for the experienced practitioner.

The authors are grateful to the support of ISAAC for their support in identifying contributors.

Written by Chris Abbott, Tina Detheridge, Cate Detheridge

  • Open closeBook Contents

    Part 1: Case Studies
    Symbols in use: supporting literacy and social justice

    • Enhancing a museum experience for people with learning disabilities, UK
    • Symbols within the family, USA
    • Symbols as a bridge to literacy, UK
    • A symbol supported school newspaper, UK
    • Enfranchisement through symbols, Afghanistan
    • Symbols for reading and pleasure, UK
    • Symbols and increasing social interaction, Argentina
    • Stories and rhymes in symbols, India
    • Symbols, behaviour and autism, Japan
    • Becoming an author with symbols, Norway
    • Literacy, art and emotions through symbols, Finland
    • Symbol shopping lists for the elderly, Denmark
    • Symbol email uniting home, school and work placement, UK
    • Life skills, citizenship and symbols, France
    • Managing the day with symbols, UK
    • Using symbols to understand the hairdresser, Denmark
    • Symbols supporting the development of speech, Thailand
    • Using symbols to fully participate in school life, Denmark
    • Symbols for second language support, UK
    • Using Bliss within the family, Egypt
    • Symbols and reading schemes, UK
    • Using a variety of approaches to achieve symbol supported literacy, Poland
    • Symbols helping the whole family, UK
    • Achieving potential with symbols, Canada
    • Symbols helping to change special education, Romania
    • Early intervention giving an important start, Denmark

    Part 2: Discussion
    Understanding symbol literacy practices: towards social inclusion

    • How symbols began
    • Different symbol types
    • Symbol uses
      • Communication - expressing wants and needs, social interaction
      • Behaviour and frustration through not making oneself understood
      • Gaining language - helping to visualise meaning and develop internal language
      • Gaining literacy
      • Access to literacy
    • Impact of technology on the use of symbols
    • Current issues in symbol use
      • Criteria for choice of symbols
      • Social issues and choice
      • Communication friendly environments
      • Introducing symbols to users
      • Attitudes to symbols
      • Types of symbol support
      • Symbols to support formal learning
      • Writing using symbols
      • The role of symbols within literacy
      • Creating materials and information for symbol readers
      • Inclusion and social justice

    Part 3: Looking Forward

    Summary of issues raised by the Case Studies


    Further reading and resources