Being literate, as defined in Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “the ability to read and write” or “to be educated”. By my own definition, literacy is the ability to read, write, and verbally communicate, while also comprehending those writings, verses, or phrases. However, literacy is not only reading and writing. In order for one to be considered literate in today’s society, that person must possess the skill of remembering and understanding what was just said or read.
Our American culture demands literacy everyday, from being able to read street signs and signals, to understanding contracts and important forms. One is no longer considered literate in American culture if they are only able to read and write what applies to their personal life. We must now be educated in cultural literacy, computer and technology literacy, and academic literacy. To function and be successful in today’s ever-changing society, the average person must rise above the basic meaning of literacy and advance in their understanding of new technology, language, and speech.
Most would agree that the skill of becoming literate begins at a very young age, from repeating the Alphabet after a teacher, to learning and remembering the names of animals, to simple word pronunciation. Even in Fishman’s essay “Becoming Literate: A Lesson From the Amish”, it is evident that children very young were reading and writing. We, as a society, place very high standards and expectations on children, and for that matter, teenagers and adults as well. All are forced to be “up to date” in the current vernacular and writings, and their ability to read, write and understand.
Experiences with becoming literate may differ from person to person depending on their family, background, and beliefs. Someone with an Amish background for example, may have memories of repeating bible verses or book phrases after an adult reads them aloud. For me personally, the experiences have always been positive. I often remember sitting in the family room on my Grandfather’s lap while he assisted me in reading simple children’s books. Another fond memory is one of doing crossword puzzles and word-finds.
When I was learning to read, phonics and “sounding out” words was the craze. We were taught in school to break the words apart and attempt to decipher them one or two letters at a time. Vowels and consonants, the sounds of long and short letters and pronunciation were all reinforced over and over. Learning to read, write, and understand all give an overall sense of accomplishment; both to me as a child, and even still today when I learn a new word or read a different book. The process of becoming literate, I believe, is a lifelong journey.
As technology and times evolve and change, our degree of literacy must also so everyone will be informed of the advancements. Overall, looking back on childhood and even into my college years, memories involving the challenge of becoming literate have been positive experiences, as can be my future endeavors in literacy. In our current society, literacy, in all aspects of the word is imperative. In order for someone to find their “place” or where they fit in the social ladder, their level of literacy must show. Many teenagers have certain ways of writing and speaking.
If one desires to be a part of that particular social group, they must learn to speak and understand the language used, as well as to verbally and non-verbally communicate their ideas and thoughts to others successfully. On many occasions, one must rely on their literary background to find their place and social group. To be literate does not always mean to use the “proper” words. For example, when attempting to fit into a social group, a person must learn and understand when to use that group’s way of speaking. “Slang” may be used in letters and language.
Words may not always mean the same thing to different people either. One person may interpret the word “bad” as describing only a behavior, while to another person the word may bring about the idea of schoolwork. Understanding how and when a particular group uses certain words shows the ability to fit in. Finding your place also refers to fitting in with your workplace. Certain language, which is acceptable out of work, is not acceptable while you are on the job. Relying on your personal literacy is definitely a big part of finding your place and where you fit in society.
For someone to honestly believe that reading and writing are of no real importance, going through life successfully would be very difficult. The ability to read and write are in fact, of great importance in everyday life. Everything from walking down the street and reading street signs, to signing and understanding contracts, even being able to secure an ideal job require literacy. In this day and age, literacy is a necessity if one wants a shot at any normalcy in life. Obviously, being able to read and write for leisure and entertainment is good thing, but to think that that’s all it’s good for is ridiculous.
For example, if a man wants to get his driver’s license and purchase a car, he must read and understand the driving manual, be able to read the test questions, and interpret the street signs on the road. Not to mention all of the paperwork and signatures that come along with buying a vehicle. The positive aspects of literacy make themselves quite evident when looking for and applying for a job, and meeting certain pre-employment criteria. Literacy should be of utmost importance to everyone, and aside from being useful for entertainment and leisure purposes; it is imperative to become successful in life.
Fifty years ago, a person may have been able to get by on what they had learned in terms of reading and writing, during their high school years. However, times have changed, and technology continues to evolve. Literacy in areas such as technology, academics, and culture are more important now than ever before, and will continue to gain importance as the days go by. To be literate helps in many aspects and gives people a clear advantage in the job market and life in general. The ability to not only read and write, but to really understand our ever-changing world will forever be a free ticket to the American dream.