Reflections about the Meaning of Literacy

Literacy is the ability to use available symbol systems that are fundamental to learning and teaching – for the purposes of comprehending and composing—for the purposes of making and communicating meaning and knowledge.  —Patricia Stock, Professor Emerita, Michigan State University (June, 2012)

Literacy extends beyond the print-only world of reading and writingLiteracies are shaped by contexts, participants, and technologies. Today’s context including developing technologies, along with visual, audio, gestural, spatial, or multimodal discourses.—from the NCTE Policy Research Brief Literacies of Disciplines (2011)

Being literate is at the heart of learning in every subject area.Being literate is necessary for learning. As students progress through school and engage with subject areas more deeply, concepts become more challenging. Students use a greater variety of learning resources with more and more complex language and structure and increasingly sophisticated graphical and numerical representations. Students learn writing and reading strategies, using evidence and reasoning pertinent to each subject area, to comprehend and represent knowledge using traditional and emerging media. —Principles for Learning (2010) ACTE, CoSN, NCSS, NCTE, NCTM, & NSTA

Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups.—NCTE Position Statement Defining 21st Century Literacies

Literacy involves a continuum of learningin enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society. —The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Position Paper (2004) The Plurality of Literacy and its Implications for Policies and Programs