Uncovering young children's emerging identities related to their literacy experiences: Suggestions to strengthen language education

  • Melanie Carmen Moen University of Pretoria
  • Ina Joubert University of Pretoria Faculty of Education
Keywords: identity, young children, drawings, favourite stories, language education, life worlds, socio-cultural influences


The study explored how young children’s identities emerged from their drawings and accounts of their favourite stories as we argue the importance of understanding children in the context of school and language education. Sixty-six (n=66) children of two urban schools in Pretoria, South Africa were asked to write about and draw their favourite story. The participants were between the ages of six and seven years. Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory and Chen’s theory of the construction of identity in a social context were used as conceptual framework. This conceptual framework could be linked to the findings which suggested that the children related their drawings and versions of their favourite stories to their interpretations of their life worlds. The prominent themes from the data could be associated with the self, the family, familiar objects and known animals. Their literacy experiences and the socio-cultural influences on the children’s construction of their identities were apparent in their work. We argue that teachers need to better understand how children understand themselves in relation to the world around them when making decisions about effective language education.

Author Biographies

Melanie Carmen Moen, University of Pretoria
Melanie Moen is a researcher and lecturer in the Department of Early Childhood Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria. She is a registered psychologist with an interest in youth violence. She is currently a PhD student in Educational Psychology.Email address: melanie.moen@up.ac.za
Ina Joubert, University of Pretoria Faculty of Education
Ina Joubert is an associate professor in the Department of Early Childhood Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria where she acts as Head of Department. She is a member of the World Education Research Association and specializes in Democratic Citizenship Education and Language Education related to the young child.  Email address: ina.joubert@up.ac.za