Literacy is a crucial life competence which empowers the individual citizen to develop capacities of reflection, oral expression, critical thinking and empathy, boosting personal development, self-confidence, a sense of identity and full participation in a digital and knowledge economy and society

European Union’s High-Level Group of Experts on Literacy, 2012.


It is estimated that one in five 15-year-old child (but it is also the case for 75 million adults in the world) suffers from reading and writing difficulties and lacks some of the basic skills necessary for development professional; these children are therefore at risk of social exclusion (European Commission, 2012). Sen (1999) considers literacy as a “capability”, a skill that gives the individual powers to transform and exercise his choices. These “capabilities” are tools of emancipation, substantial freedoms that fertilize the development of the individual, that is to say, that give him potential for autonomy in society (Nussbaum, 2012). If literacy is a catalyst for personal transformations, as Olson (1996) points out, it intervenes in social transformations and strengthens democracy. This is more than just a personal skill, literacy is a social possibility to intervene in and on the world. Finally, recent technological changes, and in particular the emergence of digital technologies, are leading to a rethinking of literacy in the wider context of the cognitive revolution (Serres, 2012).

The CeRCA’s Writing and CoALa (Communication and Language Acquisition) teams came together to better understand literacy and its development – in its broader sense (using the language of reading, writing and speaking) – from the point of view of psychological mechanisms which underlie it.



Eu High Level Group of Experts on Literacy (2012). Final Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Nussbaum, M. (2012). Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Harvard University Press.

Olson, D. R. (1996). The world on paper: The conceptual and cognitive implications of writing and reading. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sen, A. (1999). Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Serres, M. (2012). Petite Poucette. Paris: Editions du Pommier.

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