Between the Lines
The following article was submitted by Mrs. Kirsten Fournier. Kirsten is a Reading Specialist and Proud Mom of an East Side kindergartener.
What is Literacy?
What do you think of when you hear the term “literacy?” Most of us parents would readily respond: “reading.” But, defining literacy is actually a much more complex and thoughtful endeavor.
In a search for this definition, we begin to realize that the act of learning to read is actually just the beginning of a life-long process of becoming literate. Because to be literate in one’s family, school, community, and world, one must be able to take in new information, make sense of it, and use it for active learning in countless environments and for endless purposes.
Reading for Meaning
C-a-t. C-at. Cat. The early days of learning letters sounds and blending them together swiftly evolves into sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, and units. Reading for meaning is the single most important step in your child’s educational journey. But the “meaning” is constantly changing. The meaning of the words, numbers, or symbols that they read is dictated by the format of the text (novel, science text book, chart), the purpose of the text (to inform, persuade, humor), and the context of the literature.
To help our kids recognize, appreciate, and account for these variables, conversations and experiences with our children must give them ample time to experience, recognize, and practice different forms of literacy.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”
So, what does this all mean to East Side families?
We as parents must educate ourselves about how to define literacy so that we may in turn foster an environment for our children to become fully literate in today’s ever-changing world.
We never stop reading aloud to our children, teaching them to think and write critically, and encouraging them to read whenever they can. We talk to our children: What are you reading about? Why do you think the author feels that way?
We expose our children: different errands, holidays, events, cultures, neighborhoods.
And we support our children as they navigate new forms of literacy, whether it’s a cookbook, a label on a bottle of sunscreen, a computer game, or Time for Kids.
During the school year Between the Lines will highlight some of the most important types of literacy, including cultural literacy, health/safety literacy, digital/media literacy, and even financial literacy. We’d also love to hear from you and how you help your child become literate in the broadest sense of the world as s/he grows.
The ultimate goal is for our children to love reading and to understand what they read. And as their community and world expands, we want the literacy skills they need to thrive to develop alongside.
Source: “The Plurality of Literacy and its implications for Policies and Programs”. UNESCO Education Sector Position Paper: 13. 2004.
“Between the Lines” is a feature of the Education and Literacy committee of East Side Elementary School’s PTA. Monthly articles will highlight topics that may be of interest to our families. If you’d like to submit an article or have suggestions for future articles, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org