The literacy journey: from a psychological to a biological way of thinking about learning to read and write

Publication Name

International Encyclopedia of Education: Fourth Edition


This chapter organizes a historical synthesis of research on how the field of literacy education has been framed over the past hundred years. The chapter begins with an explanation of how education's alignment with psychology led to beliefs that learning is a change in behavior, rather than a mental process. Next, the authors introduce linguistic, psycholinguistic, and socio-psycholinguistic perspectives which identify language and social interactions as critical for learning. To conclude and offer a path forward for literacy research and practice, the authors promote a shift to a biological-evolutionary perspective, which equates learning with meaning-making constructed by a learner.

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