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Defining Literacy

ckeifer's picture

As I start to formulate a definition of what literacy is, I’m finding that it is far easier to say what it is not.  For instance, literacy is not just knowing how to read and write. It is not just being proficient in a language.  Literacy can not be constrained to only the dominant discourse. Literacy is not an individual event. Being literate is not the same as being educated.  Literacy is not inclusive. I could go on forever describing all the things that are not literacy and still feel no closer to defining what literacy truly is.  I’m pushed to question the ramifications of putting so much emphasis on a concept, literacy, without having a clear definition of what it is.  Literacy is something that is deemed essential in the school setting yet how can a curriculum promote literacy if there is no working definition that is accepted?  Completing the exercise of defining literacy has shown me that more critical thinking must be done in this area to reach a more inclusive and succinct definition that is easily understood and applicable by its’ audience.  Furthermore, defining literacy more successfully should illuminate better methods of promoting literacy in classrooms and communities.