What Do You Mean by Literacy?
Literacy is the ability to use language to communicate; to understand written language and use it for personal and social purposes. There was a day when literacy simply referred to knowing how to read - to complete the "school skills" of knowing words, sentences, and paragraphs. Now, in our increasingly complex world, we "read" all kinds of symbols that help us get along in our world, and we need to be literate in all the communication that makes up our lives.
(The National Institute for Literacy maintains a website with links to literacy resources at: http://www.nifl.gov/)
People search for meaning in everything they read and write, and literacy develops through participation in purposeful and meaningful activities.
Becoming literate and learning to read requires elaborate instruction and conscious effort.
- Children need to learn that we read in different ways for different purposes
- Literacy is an interactive process: children need to be taught to be meaning seekers as well as meaning makers
- Children need to be provided with knowledge of literacy conventions and skills to become confident and competent in reading and writing
- It takes explicit instruction to model skills and strategies necessary to understand new concepts: literacy is the ability to link prior knowledge with new information
As the world and our understanding of literacy change, teaching must also evolve to take on the new demands.
- Reading requires practice and needs to be taught in a literate environment which fosters interest in and curiosity about written language
- Teachers must make a conscious effort to create an awareness of print in meaningful and functional ways
- In their quest for literacy, children need support and opportunities to use what they know to learn new information: effective literacy instruction develops and builds on background knowledge
- Developing literacy-- teaching reading-- is about making sense, not just "calling words"
(Browse the NCREL Literacy page and scroll down for "Additional Resources" of Internet links to background information on literacy and lesson ideas at: http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/li0cont.htm)
The goal is to develop teachers' comfort and competence in the selection of books and print materials and in developing and implementing reading and writing activities that support inquiry.
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9912078. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.