What is literacy

When I think of the word literacy, I think of the ability to read and write in a way that enables a person to function as a contributing member of society. A couple of weeks ago, I would have considered myself a very literate person. However, after reading the texts for this class, this view of myself has changed. I have become aware that there are many types of literacy existing in todays world. These include textual literacy, writing literacy, oral literacy, visual literacy and technological literacy (Howard). These five examples support the idea that the definition of the word literacy is very ambiguous.

Learning to read is a very exciting accomplishment in a persons education. I can remember the first time that I read a bedtime story to my mother, instead of her reading one to me. I felt so proud and smart and wanted to read a lot more. As I continued my education, I developed a better understanding of reading, which allowed me to read more difficult texts. I learned that words mean nothing by themselves, but as a text they represent a plethora of ideas. A person needs to interpret and think about a text so that important ideas come forward. They need to be taught to think critically or as the saying goes read between the lines. According to Rebecca Howard, a professor at Syracuse University in New York, critical thinking involves the ability to make connections between a text and others that you have read- as well as connections between the text and what you have previously thought or experienced. It also involves being open minded about what you have read and being respectful towards other peoples opinions. Reading includes having the ability to interpret what you have read and being able to pick out the authors main points. Therefore, although being able to read The Cat in the Hat was a big achievement for me, the actual process of learning to read continued as I grew older.
Interconnected with reading literacy is written literacy. Writing is a major form of communication that is essential to a persons success (Anson, Schwegler, & Muth vii). Having the ability to express ones thoughts, ideas, and feelings on paper is extremely important, especially in the business world. For example, although some people have secretaries and assistants to write for them, they themselves also spend many hours writing in their often-busy schedules. Becoming a good competent writer requires time and practice through hard work and learning. People become familiar with writing techniques through reading books and other texts as well. Writing literacy may take many years to acquire; however, it is a very important part of ones success. Learning the proper techniques that should be taken into writing various forms of texts can help people become better writers (Anson, Schwegler, & Muth 7).
Speech is a highly interactive process, which is often forgotten about because, by its nature, speech leaves no permanent record except in the minds of the speaker and the listener. Language is the most important element of humanity (Langer 371). Building ones vocabulary and being able to convey ideas and thoughts by means of talking is a major component of literacy. For this reason, it takes a while before a language is truly mastered. First parents teach young children to say simple words like mama and dada, then they go on to learn the alphabet, and finally learn how to use those letters to make up more complex words, which in turn make up sentences. Speaking is a major part of communication. We use it to explain certain situations, how we are feeling, and to tell stories. Knowing how to get your thoughts across to another person so that they are able to understand you is an important skill in todays society. In turn, being able to listen and understand other people is also a significant part of oral literacy.

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Visual literacy involves the ability to understand and produce visual messages (Howard). With the ever-expanding proliferation of mass media in society, visual literacy as a field of research, study, and teaching becomes increasingly important. As more and more information and entertainment is acquired through non-profit media


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