Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy

$175.00 (P)

Part of Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology

Jens Brockmeier, David Olson, Peter T. Daniels, Roy Harris, Steven Chrisomalis, Douglas Biber, Ruth A. Berman, Dorit Ravid, Catherine Snow, Paola Uccelli, Usha Goswami, Karl Magnus Petersson, Martin Ingvaar, Alexandra Reis, Elizabeth Long, Heather Murray, Carolyn Steedman, Lisbeth Larsson, Karine Chemla, Steven Norris, Linda Phillips, Teresa Dobson and John Willinsky, James Paul Gee, Brian Street, Rosalind Thomas, Nicholas Everett, Feng Wang, Yaching Tsai, William Shi-Yuan Wang, Niloofar Haeri, Frits van Holthoon, A.-M. Chartier, Liliana Tolchinsky, Bruce Homer, Alison Garton, Chris Pratt, Joe Farrell, Tom Sticht, Daniel Wagner
View all contributors
  • Date Published: February 2009
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521862202

$ 175.00 (P)

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

If you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • This handbook marks the transformation of the topic of literacy from the narrower concerns with learning to read and write to an interdisciplinary enquiry into the various roles of writing and reading in the full range of social and psychological functions in both modern and developing societies. It does so by exploring the nature and development of writing systems, the relations between speech and writing, the history of the social uses of writing, the evolution of conventions of reading, the social and developmental dimensions of acquiring literate competencies, and, more generally, the conceptual and cognitive dimensions of literacy as a set of social practices. Contributors to the volume are leading scholars drawn from such disciplines as linguistics, literature, history, anthropology, psychology, the neurosciences, cultural psychology, and education.

    • Broad definition of literacy as both a psychological competence and as a social practice
    • Concern with reading as a social practice: conventions of reading, history of reading, textual communities
    • Conceptual implications of literacy
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    “The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy offers a broad descriptive perspective not driven by an immediate educational agenda. When schooling’s relation to literacy is approached within this cross-cultural, non-curricular frame, we come to see the dilemmas and processes of schooling in new ways. The fresh approach of this volume introduces many topics not covered in other reference volumes and expands our view of the multidimensional complexity of literacy. Many chapters also develop a fully participatory view of literacy that puts writing on an even and interactive footing with reading. The international, interdisciplinary authors cover wide-ranging topics from the cognitive skills necessary to read Chinese mathematics to the tensions between classical and vernacular Arabic, from neuroscience to cultural authority, from grammatology to international development. This volume is a welcome addition to our growing knowledge of reading, writing, and texts within human life.”
    —Charles Bazerman, University of California, Santa Barbara

    “A new compendium on a venerable topic, with unprecedented comprehensiveness and depth. This is an essential reference for scholars interested in the origins, impact, and dissemination of literacy, in its widest definition.”
    —Merlin Donald, Professor Emeritus, Queen’s University

    “David Olson and Nancy Torrance are acknowledged authorities in literacy studies and this volume brings together their skills as both thinkers and editors. The essays provide a comprehensive introduction to the historical, anthropological, and psychological dimensions of literacy.”
    —Brian Stock, Emeritus Professor of History and Literature, University of Toronto

    "The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy stands alone as an interdisciplinary inquiry and an informed addition to the study of literacy. The handbook will probably be embraced by a diverse audience in addition to the community of researchers in the disciplines represented. I recommend that this significant contribution to the existing resources on the nature and study of literacy be used by university professors of literacy as a text for graduate courses in language and literacy. Undergraduates pursuing advanced studies in literacy should also read it. Parts of it could be used in professional learning communities for teacher researchers who are keen and enthusiastic about the study of literacy and wish to challenge their thinking and enliven their dialogue about the nature and changing role of literacy. Beyond this, several chapters of the handbook may benefit senior government officials responsible for developing international literacy standards and policies. After reading The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy, one cannot help but ask the question, How can literacy not be important to everyone?"
    —Vera Janjic-Watrich, University of Alberta

    "The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy, edited by David Olson and Nancy Torrance from University of Toronto, joins a hefty list of Cambridge Handbooks on various topics related to psychology, language and learning. This handbook sets out to examine literacy in its widest sense; to examine both the visual signs for linguistic forms, and the social and personal uses of these signs, from mundane to the literary, both historically and currently. It aims to address a gap that it identifies in the literature: the lack of an authoritative text on literacy as a field in itself, and in providing such a text, further aims to provide scope for future interdisciplinary work...."
    --Rauno Parrila, University of Alberta and Nenagh Kemp, University of Tasmania, Australia, Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2009
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521862202
    • length: 624 pages
    • dimensions: 260 x 184 x 34 mm
    • weight: 1.25kg
    • contains: 33 b/w illus. 5 colour illus. 11 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Literacy as a Scientific Subject:
    1. The literacy episteme (from Innis to Derrida) Jens Brockmeier and David Olson
    Part II. Literacy and Language:
    2. Grammotology Peter T. Daniels
    3. Speech and writing Roy Harris
    4. The origins and co-evolution of literacy and numeracy Steven Chrisomalis
    5. Are there linguistic consequences of literacy? Comparing the potentials of language use in speech and writing Douglas Biber
    6. Becoming a literate language user: oral and written text construction across adolescence Ruth A. Berman and Dorit Ravid
    7. The challenge of academic language Catherine Snow and Paola Uccelli
    8. The basic processes in reading: insights from neuroscience Usha Goswami
    9. Language and literacy from a cognitive neuroscience perspective Karl Magnus Petersson, Martin Ingvaar, and Alexandra Reis
    Part III. Literacy and Literatures:
    10. Ways of reading Elizabeth Long
    11. Conventions of reading Heather Murray
    12. Literacy, reading and concepts of the self Carolyn Steedman
    13. Reading as a woman, being read as a woman Lisbeth Larsson
    14. Literacy and the history of science Karine Chemla
    15. Scientific literacy Steven Norris and Linda Phillips
    16. Digital literacy Teresa Dobson and John Willinsky
    17. Literacy, video games and popular culture James Paul Gee
    Part IV. Literacy and Society:
    18. Ethnography of writing and reading Brian Street
    19. The origins of Western literacy: literacy in Ancient Greece and Rome Rosalind Thomas
    20. Literacy from late antiquity to the early Middle Ages, c. 300–800 Nicholas Everett
    21. Chinese literacy Feng Wang, Yaching Tsai and William Shi-Yuan Wang
    22. The elephant in the room: language and literacy in the Arab world Niloofar Haeri
    23. Literacy, modernization, the intellectual community and civil society in the western world Frits van Holthoon
    Part V. Literacy and Education:
    24. The teaching of literacy skills in Western Europe: an historical perspective (16th to 20th centuries) A.-M. Chartier
    25. The configuration of literacy as a domain of knowledge Liliana Tolchinsky
    26. Literate thinking: metalinguistics and metacognition Bruce Homer
    27. Cultural and developmental predispositions to literacy Alison Garton and Chris Pratt
    28. Literacy and international development: education and literacy as human rights Joe Farrell
    29. Adult literacy education in industrialized nations Tom Sticht
    30. New technologies for literacy and international development Daniel Wagner
    31. Literacy theory and literacy policy David Olson.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Ethnography of Communication
    • Improving Secondary Reading Techniques
    • Language Policy and Language Change / Education across Cultures
    • Language and Power
    • Literacy in Practice
    • Reading and Writing
    • Theories of Literacy
  • Editors

    David R. Olson, University of Toronto
    David R. Olson is University Professor Emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto. He has written extensively on language, literacy, and cognition, including the widely anthologized article 'From Utterance to Text: The Bias of Language in Speech and Writing' (1977). His book The World on Paper (Cambridge University Press, 1994) has been translated into several languages. He is co-editor with Nancy Torrance of The Handbook of Education and Human Development (1996), co-editor with Michael Cole of Technology, Literacy and the Evolution of Society: Implications of the Work of Jack Goody (2006), co-editor with Janet Astington and Paul Harris of Developing Theories of Mind (Cambridge University Press, 1988), co-editor with Nancy Torrance of Literacy and Orality (Cambridge University Press, 1991), and co-editor with Nancy Torrance and Angela Hildyard of Literacy, Language and Learning (Cambridge University Press, 1985). His most recent authored book is Psychological Theory and Educational Reform: How School Remakes Mind and Society (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

    Nancy Torrance, University of Toronto
    Nancy Torrance has worked as a Senior Research Officer/Research Associate in the Centre for Applied Cognitive Science and the International Centre for Educational Change at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. She has worked extensively with David Olson on a theory of the social development of literacy and the acquisition of literacy in young children and with Lorna Earl on the evaluation of school reform efforts in Manitoba, Ontario, and England. She is co-editor with David Olson of several volumes, including On the Making of Literate Societies: Literacy and Social Development (2001), The Handbook of Education and Human Development: New Models of Learning, Teaching and Schooling (1996), Literacy and Orality (Cambridge University Press, 1991), and, with David Olson and Angela Hildyard, Literacy, Language and Learning (Cambridge University Press, 1985).


    Jens Brockmeier, David Olson, Peter T. Daniels, Roy Harris, Steven Chrisomalis, Douglas Biber, Ruth A. Berman, Dorit Ravid, Catherine Snow, Paola Uccelli, Usha Goswami, Karl Magnus Petersson, Martin Ingvaar, Alexandra Reis, Elizabeth Long, Heather Murray, Carolyn Steedman, Lisbeth Larsson, Karine Chemla, Steven Norris, Linda Phillips, Teresa Dobson and John Willinsky, James Paul Gee, Brian Street, Rosalind Thomas, Nicholas Everett, Feng Wang, Yaching Tsai, William Shi-Yuan Wang, Niloofar Haeri, Frits van Holthoon, A.-M. Chartier, Liliana Tolchinsky, Bruce Homer, Alison Garton, Chris Pratt, Joe Farrell, Tom Sticht, Daniel Wagner

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.