Literacy is obviously concerned with the ‘ability to read and write’ (The Britannica Concise Encyclopedia) and the ‘ability to use language effectively’ (Collins Essential English Dictionary); but this is not nearly not enough for me.
Reports about levels of literacy often refer to functional literacy as the borderline separating the literate from the illiterate.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development defines functional literacy not as the ability to read and write but as whether a person is able to understand and employ printed information in daily life, at home, at work and in the community. The definition of a functional illiterate, a person whose skills in reading and writing are insufficient for ordinary practical needs, illustrates the utilitarian nature of much of the debate.

I am on the whole content with the richer definition found in the new draft experiences and outcomes for literacy and English offered to teachers in Scotland this year: literacy is ‘the set of skills, which allows an individual to engage fully in society and in learning, through the different forms of language, and the range of texts, which society values, and finds useful’.
I am glad that Curriculum for Excellence makes it very clear that talking and listening are fundamental components of literacy. I also like its broad definition of text: the medium through which ideas, experiences, opinions and information can be communicated; and a prominent place for enjoyment and choice is very welcome.

A literate person in the 21st century must deploy critical and creative thinking. She needs discernment and the ability to reflect on the very nature of information itself and its social, cultural, and philosophical context and impact.

But here are a couple of quotes which, like the ones from Dr Seuss and Bettleheim, encapsulate some of my thinking:
Words and music are the tracks of human evolution (John Dunne);
and,
I believe that reading, in its original essence, is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude. (Proust).

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