This paper arises from an ethnographic study of the multilingual literacy practices of a group of families in their particular spaces within the urban context of the community of Manenberg, with the specific aim of investigating the links between spatial and urban capital and the literacy practices to be encountered among these families. A core question of the study was: What are the parental ethnotheories about literacy and schooling? The results of the study show a range of beliefs resulting in parents’ adopting a range of strategies in terms of language choice and literacy socialisation of their children. The study also shows that parental ethnotheories have a direct bearing on how the preschool child is oriented towards literacy. This has implications for what languages the preschool child is exposed to. These findings need to be seen in the larger context of the research participants’ perceptions and discourses about space, multilingualism and literacy. The respondents display an awareness of polycentricity and of interactional regimes related to the use of various languages and varieties of language (cf Blommaert, Collins and Slembrouck 2005b). Some unexpected findings are shown as a result of listening to the voices of people on the ground. The respondents’ ethnotheories of multilingualism, space, and literacy produce narratives of local patriotism, pride in Cape Afrikaans (Kaaps), and of emplacement rather than displacement.