Branches of Literacy and Levels of Literacy Analysis
Reference: Mkandaŵile Sitwe Benson (2010) Branches and Levels of Literacy Analysis – Extracted from the Paper presented at the Linguistics Association of Southern African Universities (LASU) in Zambia, hosted by the University of Zambia.
What is Literacy?
Definition 1: Literacy is the ability to manifest a skill or skills in a particular field or acquire knowledge and information in those fields in order to adapt to the environment.
Definition 2: Literacy refers to the knowledge possessed, acquired or the acquisition of knowledge, information and skills in a particular field.
Branches and Levels of Literacy Analysis
There are several branches of literacy amongst these include:
1. Adult Literacy – A branch of literacy that look at the type of education offered to the adults in order for them to adapt to their respective environments with survivalistic skills. It involves the teaching of income generating skills, civic education and other critical issues within their own environment by making use of the available resources. It involves understanding the way adults behave, how they learn and how to interact with them more effectively, Mkandaŵile, (2011).
2. Art(s) Literacy – A branch of literacy that looks at an individual’s ability to manifest art skills in exceptionally and relatively varying degrees by selecting or shaping materials to convey an idea, emotion, or visually interesting form. Art literacy also refer to the visual arts, including painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, decorative arts, crafts, and other visual works that combine materials or forms. In contemporary world, art literacy include forms of creative activity, such as dance, drama (Drama literacy), and music (Musical literacy), or even having the ability to use art to describe art other artistic skills, Mkandaŵile, (2011).
3. Business Literacy - A branch of literacy that looks at business oriented knowledge, skills and proficiency. Failure to sale products an individual has harvested, made or accumulated is an instance of business illiteracy. Business literacy refers to an individual’s ability to posses business oriented skills by means of adapting to trade oriented environments in meeting the market standards, Mkandaŵile (2011).
4. Conventional Literacy – A branch or level of literacy analysis that involve emergent and initial literacy. Conventional literacy refers to reading, writing, and spelling of text in a conventional manner. This suggests that conventional literacy has more particularly to do with skills associated with reading and writing of particular texts in a particular language. McGee and Richgels (1996:30) describe the use of conventional literacy in terms of the behavior manifested by readers. They say "Conventional readers and writers read and write in ways that most people in our literate society recognize as 'really' reading and writing. For example, they use a variety of reading strategies, know hundreds of sight words, read texts written in a variety of structures, are aware of audience, monitor their own performances as writers and readers, and spell conventionally."
5. Computer Literacy - A branch of literacy that look at an individual’s knowledge and ability to use computers and technology efficiently. It includes the comfort level someone has in using computer programs and other applications that are associated with computers. Recently, the concept include an individual’s ability to play and manipulate computer components, software, designing computer programs and use computers in a variety of ways in meeting the age of technology efficiently, (Mkandaŵile, 2011).
6. Critical Literacy – A branch and level of literacy analysis that look at the teaching of critical consciences skills relating to an individual’s ability to perceive social, political, and economic oppression and to take action against the oppressive elements of society, (Freire, 1970). The concept of critical consciousness (conscientization) was developed by Paulo Freire primarily in his books: Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Education for Critical Consciousness, Kirkendall (2004). The emphasis here is in an individual’s ability to use reading, writing, and thinking, listening, speaking, and evaluating skills in order to effectively interact, construct meaning, and communicate for real-life situations. An active literate person is constantly thinking, learning, reflecting, and is assuming the responsibility for continued growth in their own literacy development. Critical literacy involves the analysis and critique of the relationships among texts, language, power, social groups and social practices. It shows us ways of looking at written, visual, spoken, multimedia and performance texts to question and challenge the attitudes, values and beliefs that lie beneath the surface, Mkandaŵile, (2011).
7. Cultural and Cross Cultural Literacy – A branch of literacy that look at an individual’s ability to understand and appreciate the similarities and differences in the customs, values, and beliefs of one’s own culture and the cultures of others. There is no culture that can live, if it attempts to be exclusive in its own. This emphasizes on the importance of cultural literacy in its varying degrees in the global world. Therefore, as citizens of the global world, it is particularly important that all nations be sensitive to the role that culture plays in the behaviors, beliefs, and values of themselves and others, (Mkandaŵile, 2011). Understanding other cultures has two notable benefits: It multiplies our access to practices, ideas, and people that can make positive contributions to our own society; and secondly, it helps us understand ourselves more deeply. By understanding a range of alternatives, we become aware of our own implicit beliefs – beliefs so deeply imbedded that we routinely take them for granted (Stigler, Gallimore and Hiebert, 2000).
“Cultural literacy is applied in a variety of ways. For instance, with regard to text analysis, what a text means depends on what readers bring to the text and what they bring will depend on the background, training, values, traditions, beliefs and norms they have experienced. It also extends beyond text to mean understanding the cultural context and practices an individual is found in”, (Mkandaŵile, 2011).
8. Emergent Literacy - A branch or level of literacy analysis that refer to the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are developmental precursors to conventional forms of reading and writing (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998). Sulzby and Teale (1996: 728) "Emergent literacy is concerned with the earliest phases of literacy development, the period between birth and the time when children read and write conventionally. The term emergent literacy signals a belief that, in a literate society, young children even one and two year olds, are in the process of becoming literate”.
“A Broader definition of emergent literacy refer to the skills, knowledge and behaviors exhibited before knowing the actual conventional skills as accredited by tradition, accepted by the general community and the wider society as expressing truth and genuine knowledge or skills for survival” Mkandaŵile, (2011).
9. Electoral Literacy - A branch of literacy that looks at the knowledge, skills and abilities associated with electoral matters; election strategies, conducting free and fair elections, involving different stake holders in the elections and so on, (Mkandaŵile, 2011).
10. Functional Literacy - A branch or level of literacy analysis that prepares an individual to engage in all those activities available in his or her group and community and also for enabling him or her to continue to use reading, writing and calculation for his or her own and the community's development. Functional literacy as noted by different scholars is used for different activities in the society. Gray (1956:21) notes: Functional literacy is used for the training of adults to ‘meet independently the reading and writing demands placed on them’. Currently, the phrase describes those approaches to literacy which stresses the acquisition of appropriate verbal, cognitive, and computational skills to accomplish practical ends in culturally specific settings.
11. Information Literacy - A branch or level of literacy analysis that look at the ability to recognize the extent and nature of the information needed, to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed information in the manner that would befit it. It constitutes the abilities to recognize when information is needed and to locate, evaluate, effectively use, and communicate information in its various formats. A person is said to be information literate if they are able to recognize when the information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information, Mkandaŵile, (2011). Producing such a citizenry will require that schools and colleges appreciate and integrate the concept of information literacy into their learning programs and that they play a leadership role in equipping individuals and institutions to take advantage of the opportunities inherent within the information society. Information literacy has to do with knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner, implies knowing several skills. We believe that the skills (or competencies) that are required to be information literate require an understanding of a need for information; the resources available; how to find information; the need to evaluate results; how to work with or exploit results; ethics and responsibility of use; how to communicate or share your findings and how to manage your findings, Information and Computer Literacy Task Force (2001).
12. Initial Literacy - A level of literacy analysis that looks at the time or stage an individual learns or is expected to learn the basics or the process of acquiring basic skills in a particular field such as reading and writing in a particular language. It is a critical foundation of conventional literacy as it has to do with knowing expected skills in a conventional manner, (Mkandaŵile, 2011). A branch or level of literacy analysis that Mkandaŵile, (2011).
13. Legal Literacy - A branch of literacy that looks at law related knowledge, skills and proficiency an individual may possess in executing legal related matters. The difference between a lawyer and a client is the knowledge gap between them that the lawyer possess which the client doesn’t have, Mkandaŵile (2011).
14. Magical Literacy - A branch of literacy that looks at magic, witchcraft, and an understanding of the operations of the dark forces, how they threaten people’s lives , how they work, how to use and control them, Mkandaŵile (2011).
15. Medical Literacy - A branch of literacy that fall under profession literacy. Medical literacy look at the knowledge, skills and proficiency in the medical field and health care in particular, Mkandaŵile (2011).
16. Media Literacy – A branch of literacy similar to information literacy that look at an individual’s ability to understand information or read information from the different media by filtering or sifting through and analyzing the messages that inform, edutain and sell to us everyday. He further indicate that media literacy is having the ability to bring critical thinking skills to bear on all media; from music videos and web environments to product placement in films and virtual displays on billboards. “Media literacy is about asking pertinent questions about what is there, and noticing what is not there. And the instinct to questions about what lies behind media productions; the motives, the money, the values and the ownership and to be aware of how these factors influence content. Media literacy encourages a probing approach to the world of media: Who is this message intended for? Who wants to reach the audience, and why? From whose perspective is this story told? Whose voices are heard, and whose are absent? What strategies does this message use to get my attention and make me feel included? In our world of multi-tasking, commercialism, globalization and interactivity, media education is not about having the right answers – it is about asking the right questions”, Bowen (1996). The result is lifelong empowerment of the learner and the citizen. Worsnop (1994) says Media literacy has three stages; The first stage is simply becoming aware of the importance of managing one's media diet that is, making choices and reducing the time spent with television, videos, electronic games, films and various print media forms. The second stage is learning specific skills of critical viewing— learning to analyze and question what is in the frame, how it is constructed and what may have been left out. Skills of critical viewing are best learned through inquiry-based classes or interactive group activities, as well as from creating and producing one's own media messages. The third stage goes behind the frame to explore deeper issues. Who produces the media we experience—and for what purpose? Who profits? Who loses? And who decides? This stage of social, political and economic analysis looks at how everyone in society makes meaning from our media experiences, and how the mass media drive our global consumer economy. This inquiry can sometimes set the stage for various media advocacy efforts to challenge or redress public policies or corporate practices. Media range from television to T-shirts, from billboards to the Internet. To be media literate today require that people must be able to decode, understand, evaluate and write through, and with, all forms of media. People must be able to read, evaluate and create text, images and sounds, or any combination of these elements. Media literacy seeks to empower citizens and to transform their passive relationship to media into an active, critical engagement, capable of challenging the traditions and structures of a privatized, commercial media culture, and finding new avenues of citizen speech and discourse.
17. Multiliteracies – The notion and acknowledgement that there are so much literacy that exists in different fields associated with different domains of the society. “Multiliteracies - a word we chose because it describes two important arguments we might have with the emerging cultural, institutional and global order. The first argument engages with the multiplicity of communications channels and media; the second is with the increasing salience of cultural and linguistic diversity”. This quotation suggests that the concept of Multiliteracies acknowledges the existence of many literacies as it supplements traditional perception of literacy, Cope and Kalantzis (2000).
18. Political Literacy – A branch of literacy that refers to the knowledge, skills and information associated with the politics of the location, Mkandaŵile (2011). It is a set of abilities possessed by citizens considered necessary to participate in a particular government. It is a civic education skill that includes the different forces that shape the economy and politics of the country with an understanding of how government works and of the important issues facing society, as well as the critical thinking skills to evaluate different points of view. Many organizations interested in participatory democracy are concerned about political literacy, http://sitwe,wordpress.com.
19. Popular Literacy - A branch of literacy that looks at popular knowledge, speculations, values that come from advertising, the entertainment industry, the media, and icons of style and are targeted to the ordinary people in society. Popular literacy values are distinguished from those espoused by more traditional political, educational, or religious institutions as they are typically to do with popular knowledge, Mkandaŵile (2011).
20. Profession Literacy - A branch of literacy that look at individuals specialized in particular professions; teaching profession, legal profession, medical and others, Mkandaŵile (2011).
21. Statistical literacy - A branch of literacy that looks at the ability to understand statistics as presented in different forms of publications such as newspapers, television, and the Internet. Numeracy is a prerequisite to being statistically literate. Being statistically literate is sometimes taken to include having both the ability to critically evaluate statistical material and to appreciate the relevance of statistically-based approaches to all aspects of life in general, Mkandaŵile (2011).
22. Street Literacy - A branch of literacy that looks at an individual’s ability to survive and adapt to the life of the streets and maintain its standards as their immediate environment for purposes of survival, Mkandaŵile (2011).
23. Survival Literacy - A branch of literacy that involves teaching survival skills like income generating skills that empowers societies economically to be independent and self-sustaining, Mkandaŵile (2011).
24. Visual literacy - A branch of literacy that deal with an individual’s ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an images, graphic designs and other visuals aspects. Visual literacy is based on the idea that pictures can be “read” and that meaning can be communicated through a process of reading. It is an instance of Visual Memory: retaining a "picture" of what a word or object looks like and how to make sense out of it, Mkandaŵile (2011).