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UKLA 56th International Conference

"We need to talk about literacy": Why spoken language matters in literacy learning and teaching.

Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th July 2020

UKLA 56th International Conference

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With assessment of reading and writing, high on the political agenda, spoken language can sometimes be neglected, yet it is central to our personal, social, cultural, cognitive, creative and imaginative development. Spoken language allows us to negotiate, reason, justify, reflect, hypothesise, predict, explain, argue and create possibilities. In other words, spoken language is central not only to the development of the whole person, it is essential to processes of learning.

In this conference, through reflecting on research and practice, we will consider literacy in relation to spoken language. We will explore, for example, the purpose and function of spoken language; spoken language repertoires as the basis of reading and writing; its specific features as distinct from written language; its transient nature; home language and dialect, including translanguaging; and the role of language in drama, creativity and imagination. In addition the conference will include contributions from educators who work with learners for whom spoken language is not the first medium of communication, where talk is characterised as a spontaneous exchange of idea through multiple modes and media including, but not exclusively, language.

By reclaiming talk as the basis of literacy, this conference will invite delegates to consider the relationships between talk, language and literacy. It will explore how, as teachers, researchers and literacy advocates, we consider the contribution of language to learning as well as recognising its unique and distinct place in the development of identity. The conference will also make space for delegates themselves to enjoy spoken language - through poetry, storytelling and, crucially, through the rich conversations generated by gathering together to talk about literacy.

Confirmed speakers:


Professor Mariana Souto-Manning: Associate Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Chair of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Foundation (USA).

Dr Muna Abdi: Lecturer, researcher and poet


Neil Mercer: Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge

Philip Pullman: Best selling Author

M. G. Leonard: Multi-award winning, bestselling, children's author who loves invertebrates.


Michael Rosen: Professor of Children's Literature, Goldsmiths University of London, Author and Poet, and BookTrust Children's Laureate 2007 - 2009.

We are currently accepting applications for the UKLA Conference Bursary for a group to present work at UKLA International Conference. Apply here


" The atmosphere was vibrant and friendly, it has been a great experience and I’m looking forward to the next conference in Oxford!" 2019 International Conference participant.

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View the 2019 programme