ECV2020 Keynote Speaker 7

Challenging early literacy ‘interaction’ in kindergartens

Ann Merete Otterstad, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway (

Biography: Ann Merete Otterstad (PhD pedagogy) has worked as a lecturer and researcher for 27 years. Prior to this she worked as a pre-school teacher and leader in kindergartens for many years. She co-founded the research journal Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology (RERM), and is also actively involved in the network ‘Performing Research methodologies in Early Years Research’ (PMEYR). Ann Merete’s work focuses on unpacking constructions of child/ren and childhood, ethnic diversity challenges, and deconstructing ‘lifelong learning’, ‘quality’ and ‘equity’ in governmental policy documents. She is specifically interested in post-qualitative methodologies, focusing politics of methods, posthumanism and new material theories – questioning what and when is data.


Background: This presentation is situated from a Norwegian early childhood education and care milieu – a system that has experienced a strong expansion over the last decade. More children than ever are enrolled in kindergartens. During the last 40 years Norway has become an increasingly diverse society, and policy has shifted to focus more on ‘the needs of migrant families and children’. Large quantitative studies have been introduced to expand the evidence base for policy making, which include measuring quality and an increased focus on strengthening all children’s ‘language skills’. In 2016 a Whitepaper was released, suggesting mapping five-year-old’s language skills. The proposition met with resistance from pre-school teachers and this eventually stopped the proposal. 

Aim: My presentation critically unpacks and goes beyond the politics of children’s language skills in barnehager (early childhood centres). I am interested in seeing early literacy as a ‘more than’ language skills and communication between child-adult – trying to go beyond such a dualism.
Method: My question and speculation is ‘what else’ might happen if language skills are connected to bodily rhythm and dances of intra-actions in a garden with a kitchen-stair and a plumtree. When the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari say that we can connect ourselves philosophically to the world through ‘the act of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts’ they encourage us to take a process-philosophical standpoint in our investigations. Such a standpoint includes a doing, which inspires me to put together thinking and writing differently, and de-centre child-adult constructions and unpack oral language skills.

My presentation proposes a short sequence of a film with a 1 ½ year old child. This 2-minute sequence will hopefully function as an ‘act of forming, inventing and fabricating’ propositions, showing what can be produced when more-than spoken language skills in the field of early childhood care are critically discussed.

Implications for children: How can you bodily explore your tempo, rhythm, environment, weather, smells, plums, and so on, in the moment, to find out what might happen? 

Implications for families: Appreciating how your children interact with the world – in diverse ways – is really valuable. As a parent be aware of all the small things that matters for children.

Implications for practitioners: Try to keep your focus on all ways that you and children are exploring in togetherness with the world around you. Always.

Key words: children’s bodily communication and early literacy, policy documents

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: