titleinquiry logo

LiteracyThe Evolving Definition of Literacy

The definition of literacy has evolved over the past century. Most dictionaries define literacy as the ability to read and write. Today the definition has been expanded. Many now consider literacy to be the ability to locate, evaluate, use, and communicate using a wide range of resources including text, visual, audio, and video sources.

eyeRead Literacy from NETC.

According to Barbara Stripling in Curriculum Connections through the Library (2003, p. 9), "not only are literacy and inquiry related through common thinking skills, but they are both inextricably related to content. Neither can be mastered out of context (students learn to comprehend and inquire when they are engaged in learning about concepts that matter to them)."

checkExplore the table Inquiry and Literacy (PDF) from Barbara Stripling in Curriculum Connections through the Library (2003, p. 10-17).

Literacy and the Teacher Librarian

Literacy learning plays a central role in the school library media center. Teacher librarians must be prepared to address the interests and needs of a diverse student population. With today's high-stakes testing, information literacy is essential.

Social and technological changes impact our understanding of literacy. Our challenge is to prepare our children for the new literacies of the future.

New Literacies

Over the past few decades many "new literacies" have been identified. For instance, NCREL's enGauge (2003) identify eight Digital Age categories:

Along with information and technology related literacies, many people have focused on other categories of literacy such as communication literacy, productivity literacy, content literacy, and critical literacy.

Not everyone agrees on the need to distinguish these new literacies. For example, some people interpret it as way to justify teacher librarians or a "new subject" that will be a burden to teachers.

checkRead Key Word: Literacy in THE BLUE BOOK by Callison and Preddy (p. 421-424).

OPTIONAL: Read Chapter 3: Literacy Learning in the Elementary School: Implications for School Library Media Specialists by Donna M. Shannon in Curriculum Connections through the Library edited by Barbara K. Stripling & Sandra Hughes-Hassell.

OPTIONAL: Read Chapter 4: Promoting Young Adult Literacy: A Role for School Library Media Specialists by Sandra Hughes-Hassell in Curriculum Connections through the Library edited by Barbara K. Stripling & Sandra Hughes-Hassell.

checkRead enGauge 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age (2003) from NCREL (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory). According to the authors, this publication represents an important first step toward Digital Age readiness. Readers are invited to use the enGauge 21st Century Skills as a platform for the shifts in school policy and practices necessary to give our students the education they require in a knowledge-based, global society. How do you view the relationship among all of these literacies?

Skim 21st Century Literacies. These include information, media, multicultural, and visual components.

checkSkim Twenty-first Century Literacy and Technology in K-8 Classrooms
by June Brown, Jan Bryan, and Ted Brown in Innovate (Vol 1, issue 3, Feb/March 2005). You'll need to register to access the article.

checkSkim Information Literacy Makes All the Wrong Assumptions by Stanley Wilder (The Chronicle Review, Jan 2005). Do you agree or disagree with his position? Why? (IUPUI password required)

LAMBLamb's Latitudes
When I first heard the word illiterate a couple decades ago, I thought of adults who couldn't read to their children, interpret street signs, or write their name. However my definition has evolved over the past decade. Today's global, technology-rich world demand citizens who can not only read and write, but also recognize the difference between a legitimate weight loss program and a money-making info-merical. They need be able to make informed choices about political candidates with different perspectives on international policy. Literacy isn't format specific, it's about the evaluation and application of the information represented in a book, video, or email message. Literacy is more than knowledge and skills, it's also the disposition toward lifelong learning and global awareness. What does literacy mean to you? Is everyone you know literate by today's standards?

Key Words

Learn More

21st Century Literacies from ATT Knowledge Network Explorer. Includes information, visual, cultural, and media.

Armstrong, Sara & Warlick, David (September 1, 2004). The NEW Literacy -- The 3 Rs Evolve into the 4 E. Technology and Learning. (IUPUI password required).

Au, Kathryn & Raphael, Taffy (2000). Changes in Literacy, Literature and Instruction Hold Promise for Increasing Educational Equity. Reading Research Quarterly.

Leu, Donald & Kinzer, Charles (2000). What Challenges Face the Use of Information and Communication Technologies for Literacy Instruction? Reading Research Quarterly.

Leu, Donald & Kinzer, Charles (2000). What Will Literacy Instruction Look Like in the Future? and Scholars Identify Cultural Forces that are Shaping Literacy. Reading Research Quarterly.

Ley, D.J. & Coiro, J. Literacy Web from University of Connecticut. The Literacy Web is designed to promote the use of the Internet as a tool to assist classroom teachers in their search for best practices in literacy instruction, including the new literacies of Internet technologies.

McKenzie, Jamie (September 1998). The Information Literate School Community. From Now On.

Rafferty, Cathleen (1999). New Forms of Literacy Create Implications for Educators. Educational Leadership.

Wolf, Sara Elizabeth (March 2004). Making the grade with information literacy. Learning Quarterly.

| SLIS-IUPUI | eduScapes | About | Contact Us | ©2005-2012