In the official educational discourse in the Nordic countries literacy teaching has become a central and contested issue. In both public and political debate literacy seems to be constructed as a unified concept streamlined for administration and measurement (Prinsloo & Baynham, 2008), and linguistic diversity seems to be associated with societal problems and educational failure. ”The bilingual student” is placed in the core of this debate, as he or she is portrayed as a main cause of the low national placement in the international rankings (Holm & Laursen, 2011) and thus increasingly conceived of as a threat to a school’s profile (Rampton, Harris & Leung, 2001). In this paper, I focus on different conceptualizations of literacy and discuss the implications for research on bilingual children's literacy acquisition and the need to expand the understanding of literacy in ways, which might contribute to lift the basic understanding of bilinguals’ literacy out of a disqualifying political discourse. Drawing on the ongoing study Sign of Language (Laursen, 2011), I reflect on how a social semiotic framework might help open new research perspectives on bilingual children’s literacy acquisition by recognizing as well the child's agency and the micro-stories embedded in the creation of signs as the discursive macro-stories surrounding the meaning making processes. The longitudinal study Signs of Language (2008-2014) involves five multilingual classrooms and aims at getting insight into the children’s complex uses of the linguistic and semiotic resources available to them by paying close attention to the perspective of the children - as users and interpreters of literacy. Methodologically we adopt an ethnographic approach which also leads us to focus attention to the local use of sociolinguistic and semiotic resources as it unfolds in five different settings (Blommaert, 2003).