What is literacy?

There are many definitions by various organizations that support literacy.

National Adult Literacy Survey – How well adults can use printed and written information to function in society, to achieve their goals, and to develop their knowledge and potential is the definition of literacy crafted by a panel of experts for the National Adult Literacy Survey.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – The traditional definition of literacy is considered to be the ability to read and write, or the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that lets one understand and communicate ideas in a literate society, so as to take part in that society.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition – “Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.”

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 – “An individual’s ability to read, write, speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual and in society.”

This is a broader view of literacy than just an individual’s ability to read, the more traditional concept of literacy. As information and technology have increasingly shaped our society, the skills we need to function successfully have gone beyond reading, and literacy has come to include the skills listed in the current definition.

Why is Literacy Important?

In the United States, an estimated 30 million people over the age of 16 read no better than the average elementary school child. Worldwide, nearly 800 million adults are illiterate in their native languages; two-thirds of them are women. Yet the ability to read and write is the basis for all other education; literacy is necessary for an individual to understand information that is out of context, whether written or verbal.

Literacy is essential if we are to eradicate poverty at home and abroad, improve infant mortality rates, address gender inequality, and create sustainable development. Without literacy skills—the abilities to read, to write, to do math, to solve problems, and to access and use technology—today’s adults will struggle to take part in the world around them and fail to reach their full potential as parents, community members, and employees.

Video: The Silent Crisis

I have a family and run my own business. I don’t have time for a lot of community concerns. How do these literacy issues concern me?

Adult low literacy can be connected to almost every socio-economic issue in the United States:

  • More than 60 percent of all state and federal corrections inmates can barely read and write.
  • Low health literacy costs between $106 billion and $238 billion each year in the U.S. — 7 to 17 percent of all annual personal health care spending.
  • Low literacy’s effects cost the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.

Video: Illiteracy in America

Some facts about Illiteracy are hard to believe.

What is the difference between ABE and ESL?

ABE stands for Adult Basic Education. Students in this program upgrade reading, writing, and math skills and prepare for the GED. ESL denotes English as a Second Language. This program helps international students improve their ability to speak English.

Video: The Literacy Project

I have a family member who doesn’t live in Oklahoma City and her children are failing in school. What can I do to help her?

National Literacy Directory is sponsored by the Dollar General Foundation. http://www.nationalliteracydirectory.org/

Video: The Importance of Community Involvement

Dr. Ruby Payne describes how schools can be successful by involving the larger community in a networked, linked system.

I just graduated and this is my first year as a classroom teacher. The school I work at has a 90% rate of free or reduced rate lunch program which means it is in an area impoverished area. Often I don’t feel as if I have the time to teach.

LINCS – Literacy Information and Communications System is supported by funds from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education. In addition to the being the site of America’s Literacy Directory (ALD). You will find information about literacy programs for adults, children, and families. You will find information regarding professional development as well. There are also discussion groups you can sign up for that cover specific topics

I feel stuck in a job that with no future. I work full time trying to raise 3 children. I’m trying to better myself but don’t have time to take any classes…what can I do?

There are programs that can be utilized if you have access to a computer . These programs are listed in the Finding Help section under the Resources tab. All Metro Libraries allow access to computers. Or you can email [email protected] for a list of Learning Centers near you.

Also, you might go to the Learners blog and read what others to have to say. Others face the same struggle and the blog is a place to share what you are going through and how others have met the challenges.

Video: Technology and Learning in the Workplace