What Exactly is Literacy?

The word literacy is used quite often, but how is it truly defined? And why does it matter?

We’re glad you asked and happy to share our thoughts.

Literacy has been defined and redefined as the world, society changes, and more is expected of people. The word literate means more now than simply knowing how to read. The term has more weight and depth than the old, direct translation.

Reading to New Heights defines literacy as the ability to use printed and written information to function well in society.

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development) simplifies this idea well:

Literacy is more than just reading, writing, and numeracy. It’s not about being literate or illiterate anymore, but having adequate skills for today’s demands.

In refining our own definition, we were inspired by definitions of literacy from other places, most notably the following:

UNESCOLiteracy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute, and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.

NAAL (National Assessment of Adult Literacy)Literacy is using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.

ProLiteracyLiteracy is the ability to read, write, compute, and use technology at a level that enables an individual to reach his or her full potential as a parent, employee, and community member.

We love these definitions. And while someone is on the journey to learning, they are indeed learning. At Reading to New Heights, we call that beloved group adult learners. And we never use the term illiterate as it implies ignorance and is an insulting term to use. Literacy is a continuum, and people gain literacy on a scale. Learning is a continuous journey, so in essence, everyone over the age of 18 are adult learners.

The more you know, the more you grow! We hope to spread awareness and empower adults through literacy support.

Share this with someone you know today!

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