Emilia Ferreiro: Biography, Theory and Main Books

Emilia Ferreiro is a pedagogue, psychologist and writer well known for her contributions to education, especially for her theory of how children learn to read. He was born in Argentina in 1937 and has published numerous works that are a reference in the psychogenesis of the writing system.

Emilia Ferreiro has worked as a professor at the University of her hometown, Buenos Aires, and was a researcher at the International Center for Genetic Epistemology at the University of Geneva. His contributions have won numerous awards and recognitions, such as the Andrés Bello Order of Venezuela.

Biography of Emilia Ferreiro

In addition, the University of Buenos Aires and the University of Rio de Janeiro named her Doctor Honoris Causa. The beginning of his work on the psychogenesis of writing was in 1979, when he published the book Writing Systems in child development . Ferreiro has also presented different contributions in other areas related to education.


  • 1 Biography of Emilia Ferreiro
    • 1.1 Studies
    • 1.2 Exile
    • 1.3 Career path
  • 2 Theory developed
    • 2.1 Phases of the acquisition of literacy
  • 3 Other contributions
    • 3.1 Education
    • 3.2 Methodology and educators
  • 4 Main books
    • 4.1 Children think about writing
    • 4.2 Literacy, theory and practice
    • 4.3 Validity of Jean Piaget
    • 4.4 Narrate in writing from a character. Approaching children to the literary
  • 5 References

Biography of Emilia Ferreiro


Born in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1937, her full name is Emilia Beatriz María Ferreiro Schavi. He completed his studies with a doctorate in genetic psychology that he made at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland.

The director of his thesis was Jean Piaget, who was also the author of the prologue of the book based on that thesis: Temporal relationships in the language of the child .

Ferreiro returned to her hometown in 1971. There she was one of the founders of a group dedicated to studying literacy, in addition to teaching at the University. The Guggenheim Foundation of the United States awarded him a scholarship the following year and in 1974 he would leave his teaching job.


The coup that took place in Argentina in 1977 forced her to leave for exile. Ferreiro settled in Switzerland, and then moved to Mexico. In this country he started a study on children with learning problems in the city of Monterrey.

In 1979 she began to reside in Mexico City with her husband and children. There, he taught at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute.

Career path

Emilia Ferreiro has had a very rich and varied professional life. Undoubtedly highlights his research on the psychogenesis of the childhood writing system. She started working in this field starting in 1974, when she was a teacher, and studied how it affected children before and during their first years in school.

At the University of Geneva, she was a researcher at the International Center for Genetic Epistemology, and in the University of Buenos Aires she taught for several years.

Between 1995 and 1998 he was part of the commissions in charge of evaluating the National System of Researchers of Mexico. He was also a member of the Council of Scientific and Technological Research of Argentina, of the W. K. Kellogg and Guggenheim Foundations, and of UNESCO.

Despite being recognized for her research work, Ferreiro has also been involved in the social life of Latin American countries. In this area they highlight their work to improve the literacy of the most disadvantaged in society, both in rural and urban areas.

Theory developed

The most important contribution of Emilia Ferreiro is her theory on how to acquire the ability to write. Although many think that he invented a novel method of literacy, the truth is that his work was much more theoretical.

In this way, he investigated the evolutionary process by which children learn the written language and made a series of pedagogical recommendations about that process. This field of study is called the psychogenesis of the writing system.

Phases of the acquisition of literacy

Ferreiro began his work on this subject in 1974. In his theory he divides the process of acquisition of literacy in five phases.

The symbolic phase

In this phase children only do scribbles or drawings. They can perform general interpretations, but they are not capable of elaborating hypotheses.

Writing phase

In the writing phase the children begin to handle the letters, although still in a very simple way. They combine them and try to write, more like a game than knowing one hundred percent what they are doing.

Syllabic stage

The third stage, called syllabic, is an advance in the writing of the child. During this phase he begins to work with the syllables. He is able to draw hypotheses and write simple and short words.

Another characteristic of this phase is that the child begins to unite the oral with the written. He also sees the relationship between what is written with the real object he designates.

Alphabetical syllabic transition stage

It is the fourth level in the development of writing. The child is able to relate the sounds and the writing and begins to work the alphabetic aspect.

At that time his capacity is increasing, although he is still going to make many mistakes.

Alphabetic stage

In this last stage the little one already understands all the characters. He also expands his vocabulary with words that have more syllables. He also begins to understand the use of phonemes, although he still makes mistakes.

If the child has normally gone through all these stages, from the age of five he can face the teaching of literacy in a more formal way without problems.

Other contributions


As it could not be less given his special interest on the subject, Emilia Ferreiro also made some general contributions on education. For the thinker it was essential that everyone had access to quality education. And it not only referred to the content, but also to values ​​such as freedom, solidarity or dignity.

Ferreiro pleads in his writings for considering education as a fundamental right and recommends that all possible means be used, including new technologies.

In more theoretical terms, she proposes to overcome the old educational schemes and, as she herself affirms, to change the view in the classroom. He also says that it is necessary to avoid school failure.

Methodology and educators

Other aspects in which Ferreiro affects to improve education is in the use of different methodologies and in the preparation of the teaching staff.

Regarding the teaching staff, Ferreiro wrote:"he must be able to make decisions that transcend the student's training; demonstrate interest and skill in educational advances that benefit the education and training of the student"

Regarding the methodology to be applied in the classroom, the pedagogue tries to use different psychological theories to improve the transmission of knowledge. These theories would be behaviorism, constructivism or sociocultural approach, among others.

Main books

Children think about writing

It deals with the theory and practice of literacy processes, whether in children or adults.

Literacy, theory and practice

Reflection on writing as a representation of reality. Focus on how children conceptualize written language and how it can be applied to teaching.

Validity of Jean Piaget

In a compilation of various texts related to the centenary of Piaget's birth.

Narrate in writing from a character. Approaching children to the literary

Ferreiro takes the typical characters of the stories, such as witches, princes and princesses or stepmothers. Instead of offering classic stories, children from 9 to 11 years old are rewritten by identifying with one of the protagonists and providing a new vision of them.


  1. Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the I.P.N. Dr. Emilia Ferreiro. Retrieved from die.cinvestav.mx
  2. Cabal Magazine. Emilia Ferreiro, keys to education that comes. Retrieved from revistacabal.coop
  3. Other School Association is possible. Emilia Ferreiro. Retrieved from another school
  4. Oliveira Mello, Márcia Cristina. The opinion of Emilia Ferreiro on literacy. Recovered from acoalfaplp.net
  5. Angle Carabalí, Nubia Rubiela. Emilia Beatriz María Ferreiro Schavi. Retrieved from bioemilia.blogspot.com.es
  6. Marta Kohl de Oliveira, Teresa Cristina Rego. Contributions to contemporary research of Luria's cultural-historical approach. Recovered from scielo.br
  7. Paulo Freire, Donaldo Macedo, Ana Maria Araujo Freire. Daring to Dream: Toward to Pedagogy of the Unfinished. Recovered from books.google.es