Thériault, V. (2015). Literacy mediation and literacy learning in community-based organisations for young people in a situation of precarity in Québec. Thèse de doctorat en linguistique et langue anglaise, Université de Lancaster, Lancaster.
This thesis investigates the relations between the literacy practices used in two community-based organisations and those of the young people in a situation of precarity (aged 16 to 30) who attended their activities in Québec (Canada). These organisations supported them to find work, housing, return to education, improve their social relationships, and integrate in society, which I refer to as social and professional insertion. Drawing on the New Literacy Studies (NLS), in this study literacies are considered as social practices rather than technical skills. The thesis brings together NLS and francophone studies on literacy, and uses terms originating in French and which have no precise equivalents in English. Examples are ‘rapport à l’écrit’ and ‘situation of precarity’. The methodological approach is ethnographic, critical, and participatory. The study had two phases of data collection. In the first phase, the chosen techniques were participant observation and semi-structured interviews, and the second phase involved participatory workshops. The findings indicate that the young people had extremely rich and complex literacy practices. The literacy practices used as part of the organisations’ activities and workshops for young people were hybrid; combining school-related, digital and vernacular literacies with practices associated with counselling, work, social relationships, and relations with the state. Some young people whose education got interrupted reconciled themselves with education and school-related literacy through their participation at Le Bercail and L’Envol. With the support of the youth workers, the young people were encouraged to learn by doing, a form of learning that can be identified as apprenticeship. The literacy practices used in the organisations were not exclusively controlled by the research participants. Some sponsors of literacy (e.g. the state and institutions) were imposing various literacy demands they had to respond to. The youth workers acted as literacy mediators with regards to some of these. Literacy mediation at Le Bercail and L’Envol can be qualified as a form of ‘powerful literacies’ since it can offer an alternative to counter dominant literacies and it can support learning. A new term―literacy intermediates―is suggested to describe the kind of literacy mediation that the youth workers were doing.