Literacy is about 5,000 years old. Since it was invented it has transformed human societies and knowledge fundamentally. Indeed, civilization is built on literacy. Literacy in both written and oral form represents human communication that shapes the mind differently. It follows that the epistemology of a people, or how they learn, think and remember, is determined by the nature of their communication tools and strategies, whether oral, literate or otherwise.
The essence of literacy is the ability to be able to produce and interpret language appropriately within different contexts to the point where a person can deeply understand and even question it. Literacy does not end with reading, writing, interpreting, and understanding on just a surface level. It ends when an individual reaches that deeper understanding and begins questioning and forming their own interpretations, they are literate.
The importance of literacy is profound. Consider what literacy can do for the individual and society as a whole.
- Literate individuals demonstrate independence with text.They can, independently, with little guidance from teachers and peers, comprehend varied, complex print and digital texts, communicate and build on others’ ideas, and understand and apply academic and discipline-specific vocabulary and conventions of English. They know how to use strategies and employ them when necessary to comprehend texts and apply literacy knowledge and skills.
- Literate individuals build strong content knowledge.They acquire and share knowledge of subject matter through reading, writing, and speaking as well as research and study. They read and understand discipline-specific texts and become experts in the content.
- Literate individuals respond to varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline.They set and adjust their communication in relation to audience, task, purpose, and discipline. They understand how words affect meaning in writing and in speech, depending on the audience and the purpose, and how different disciplines call for providing different types of evidence.
- Literate individuals comprehend as well as critique.They understand and can explain what writers, speakers, and visual and mixed media creators are saying through their texts, but they also know how to analyze and examine these texts critically. They question an author’s assumptions and biases and evaluate the veracity and logical reasoning of the claims.
- Literate individuals value evidence.They can cite evidence to support their interpretation of text, both verbally and in writing. They also communicate their reasoning effectively and know how to evaluate the reasoning and arguments of others.
- Literate individuals use technology and digital media strategically and capably.They employ technology thoughtfully and effectively and can determine which media are best suited for their communication goals. They also synthesize information found through various media and technologies.
- Literate individuals come to understand other perspectives and cultures.They encounter perspectives and ways of life that are different from their own through reading, writing, and listening, and they are able to work and communicate effectively with peers of diverse backgrounds. Through reading multicultural literature, they have new experiences that expand their cultural understanding and sensitivity.