Since the majority of my blog posts refer to “literacy” and “illiteracy,” I think it would be wise to explain what I mean when I use those terms.
The definition of literacy which I am referencing is found in the publication Digest of Education Statistics 2011 by the National Center for Education Statistics and can also be found on their website at: http://nces.ed.gov/naal/literacytypes.asp
There are various types of literacy such as health literacy, math literacy, and cultural literacy; however, according to the NCES study conducted in 2003 (which I reference frequently), literacy is broken into three components.
- Prose literacy, which is defined as, “The knowledge and skills needed to perform prose tasks, (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use continuous texts). Examples include editorials, news stories, brochures, and instructional materials.”
- Document literacy, which is defined as, “The knowledge and skills needed to perform document tasks, (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use non-continuous texts in various formats). Examples include job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and drug or food labels.”
- Quantitative literacy, which is defined as, “The knowledge and skills required to perform quantitative tasks, (i.e., to identify and perform computations, either alone or sequentially, using numbers embedded in printed materials). Examples include balancing a checkbook, figuring out a tip, completing an order form or determining the amount.”
Secondly, I will clarify by saying the 14% illiteracy statistic that I cited in an earlier post falls under the prose literacy definition with a “below basic” score. This means roughly (I say “roughly” because it is illogical to assume the study reached every adult in America) 14 out of every 100 adults in the United States fell below basic for prose literacy. To make this point a bit clearer, one in seven U.S. adults can read a “Restroom” sign in a restaurant but cannot read the options available in the menu. Let’s not forget that some of this 14% cannot read any English text.
I hope by providing this information it clears up any confusion as to what literacy is! My apologies for not posting this before; I ought to have done it before now. It certainly is a large topic but hopefully one you find interesting!
Until next time,