Literacy affects the way we lead our lives in more aspects than we probably stop to think about on any given day. Here is a fun exercise to think about how literacy affects your daily life: make a list of five tasks that you have undertaken in the last hour. For me, the tasks accomplished are relatively simple: I drove my car to a coffee shop, ordered a drink before opening my laptop, replied to a few emails, and opened a blank screen to begin composing this blog post. Oh, and of course, I opened up Google Play to listen to some writing-friendly music.
Simple enough, right? Still, without the fundamentals of literacy long ago rooted in my childhood, the series of events throughout the last hour would have looked much different. Even an act as simple as listening to music requires reading-based curriculum skillsets, such as fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary.
Literacy is in the fabric of our livelihood, and while the word itself conjures up imagery of knowing how to read – and how to read well – literacy is so much more. The International Literacy Association defines literacy as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context.”
Throughout 2015 and into early 2016, I mentored a 10-year-old boy named Chris. At our very first Open Books session, before we even began his initial fluency assessment, I asked Chris to make a list of his favorite hobbies. They were what you might imagine a boy in fourth grade would count among his top interests: Minecraft, among many other computer/video games, and dinosaurs. I then explained how reading and literacy served as the foundation for appreciating and participating in those interests. Minecraft requires a greater understanding of storytelling (and certainly, writing the code and software for any computer game or program requires an advanced skillset of literacy), and learning more about dinosaurs and their complex scientific history would engage all five components of reading.
Many resources exist for incorporating literacy into everyday life from an early age. In addition to Pages & Chapters’ curriculum and supplemental activities, Scholastic offers up nine ways to integrate reading into everyday life for children – although, several of them are great for adults, as well, such as creating word collages from cutting up magazines.
Organizations across Kansas City are also addressing different components within literacy, such as bridging the digital divide. For example, Connecting for Good offers tutoring and special classes on finding health and medical information, social networking, online shopping, and how to search for job opportunities.
Every few months, I will hear the sentiment floating around on social media or a message board discussion that fewer people are reading these days. Instead, most of us are engrained in the screens of our phones or tablet devices. I would challenge anyone who subscribes to that notion to take the five-tasks challenge posed earlier. They also could engage in conversation with a co-worker, family member, or friend, and ask them about the past several hours of their lives.
I think the naysayers would be surprised to learn that we engage in literacy-based activities – and their critical foundation in the five components of reading – more and more every day. Literacy isn’t necessarily about sitting quietly, reading a good book for an uninterrupted quiet hour. Such reflective moments also have the power and necessity to crossover into our daily lives as productive citizens.
Written by Adrianne DeWeese