Commissioners of National Education in Ireland institutionalised national schooling as an alternative to playful childhood innocence in 1831. Childhood deemed was a partial state of becoming. The school child was capable of voice through textual and oral mediums but this voice was subject to regulation and manipulation. Multiliteracies in Irish national education retain late nineteenth-century timbre, overtones and paradoxes in their ontological synthesis of childhood and adulthood. Drawing on Bakhtin's notion of voice and employing critical discourse analysis of school reading books (1859-1887) and affiliated teacher manuals (1913), this paper examines the generic, pedagogical and ideological forces underpinning the living nature of school literacies and their role in the negotiation of childhood experience in Ireland. Finally, it will unpack the National Strategy to Improve Literacy (2011) to expose the convergence of past and present in the ‘unitary language’ propagated by ‘centripetal forces’ in education.