Vally Lytra, Eve Gregory and Arani Ilankuberan’s article “Children’s Representative of the Temple in Text and Talk in a Tamil Hindu/Saiva Faith Community in London” included research which focused on how children in the Tamil community religious practices formed their talk and text. These children come from families who were forced to leave their country, because of the civil war. The temple gave the new migrants a sense of community and belonging. The researchers had the children create scrapbooks that illustrated their religious practices and experiences. The children were able to observe faith and cultural practices through “repetition, recitation, echoing, memorization with a song, dance, gesture, and chant.” Through these multimodal interactions children were able to engage in their religious and cultural practices, which gave them a sense of community and belonging. I believe the children will be able to utilize the knowledge and practices developed in their respective communities about faith through literacy activities in the classrooms. The children are already in the process of forming how they perceive the world through faith. Religion can shape children and their learning. It can also give them a sense of identity.
Just like the children that were part of the research I too had to go to a faith-based Saturday school. We were taught the Arabic alphabet and stories from the Quran through various multimodal interactions. Our teacher would also demonstrate the proper way of prayer and we’d then, imitate that. I learned through the children’s books the teacher read to us about the importance of sharing, treating others with kindness, helping those in need and the importance of my role in my religious community. Attending the Islamic Saturday school gave me a sense of belonging and helped me in shaping my identity, my understanding of everything around me and how I interacted with others. The children in my Saturday school came from various cultural, ethnic and economic backgrounds, but we were able to connect and learn together through talk and text, that were Islamic based practices and conducts. My association with my peers and teacher during the Saturday school helped shape the beginning of my literacy education, an emphasis on reading, understanding through writing and being able to articulate my understanding in a clear and precise way. My religious involvement in my community would later, go on to help me with my travel encounters and experiences.
As an adult I traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand and while there my travel companion and I visited a ‘Monk Chat Program’ which was a way for Monks to teach tourists about their Buddhist beliefs while developing their English. This was a real-life example of literacy acquisition using faith-based knowledge as the vehicle for learning. While my friend and I learnt about the Monk’s daily routine and his adoration for Ghandi, a Hindu who embodied many of the same ideals of Buddhism; the Monk practiced his English by taking notes while we spoke, asking for correct spellings and definitions throughout our chat. This is an example of ‘talk and text’. The three of us, all from different religious backgrounds; myself, a Muslim, my friend a Christian and of course, the Monk a Buddhist – all enjoyed our conversation about the Buddhist faith. This was not just a conversation but also a chance to improve our literacy – the Monk’s English skills as well as our specialized knowledge of his religion. The understanding and practices of our faith was what allowed the Monk, my travel companion and I to communicate in a healthy and respectful manner. I was very eager to take a picture with the Monk as a souvenir and lasting memory, but they are not allowed to touch or be close to a woman. I observed this during our interaction, as he barely made eye contact with me. This was a great experience to show that there’s more that connects us than separates us. Our curiosity and eagerness to learn about our religious and cultural background show how cultural practices can be merged within multimodal outlets. As educators, we should have a deeper understanding of how important faith is in shaping children’s early literacy practices and their connection and meaning to those practices.
The two visuals below I hold dear to my heart. The first visual is the poster that you see as you walk towards the Monk tables and the video shows the Monks in prayer.