Manifesto for Wild Literacy


Literacy has been caged. It is increasingly a tick-box exercise, a dry and dull task to show technical skill and knowledge. Reduced to things that can be measured and compared, rigid pre-set targets restrict and restrain and strangle. Literacy becomes about following a narrow, designated path rather than running unrestrained through wild terrain. Wandering free, with no time restraints or rules means finding new un-trodden places and viewing the land from new and exciting places, from the top of a tree or from inside a cave.

Words hold the potential to weald power, change hearts and minds, persuade from one view to another, stir us to action, bring out our empathy, anger and passions. Words give us hope. They can give voice to the voiceless, transcend boundaries of class, country, race, gender and age. Words can be stories, poetry, persuasion, comedy, legend. They can create futures or bring the past to life, releasing from our imaginations all kinds of weird and wonderful happenings. They can transport us to new worlds and on new adventures – doing things we could not dare to do or be able to do in real life. Words need to be free and wild and raucous. They need to come from within, not imposed from without. A writer needs to start from a place of freedom and have space to breathe, to let loose the untamed words. The writing process does require technical skills and knowledge – and targets can help shape something coherent and help us improve – but it cannot start from that; that comes later, after the messy freedom of the creative beginning.

This is what Wild Literacy is about. That creative spark – allowing it to ignite and then fanning it into a fire that burns brightly. It is about giving children space to build their confidence and ability in using words; to enable them to find their voice and use it. Literacy should be about setting children free and enabling them to engage with the world around them. Literacy should not be caged or domesticated; it should be untamed, unleashed and wild!