Cognitive Tools and the Acquisition of Literacy (2001)

Working Paper No. 5

This is the fifth paper published by The Centre for Literacy in its Working Papers on Literacy series that presents new perspectives on literacy-related topics relevant to researchers, practitioners and policy-makers. The author's thesis is that our understanding of the world and our acquisition of literacy are shaped by a set of cognitive capacities or "tools" that are present in oral cultures and expand in the early stages of literacy. He suggests that many of these tools, including story, metaphor, jokes and humour, association, and more, could and should shape literacy teaching to both children and adults. He challenges the current focus on functional literacy and takes us back to pre-history and early Greek times to demonstrate the potential of drawing on the cognitive tools shared by participants in oral and literate cultures.

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APA citation
Kieran Egan. Cognitive Tools and the Acquisition of Literacy 2001. Web. 19 Aug. 2022 <>
Kieran Egan (2001). Cognitive Tools and the Acquisition of Literacy. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from
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