Types of Literacy or Literacies

Reference as: Mkandawire, S. B. (2015). LTC 1000 Types of Literacy or Literacies. The University of Zambia Lecture notes for week 2. Retrieved from https://sitwe.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/types-of-literacy-or-literacies/

Types of Literacy
In today’s world, there are different forms and types of literacies that people in different fields talk of in the society. By now, you must have heard or used some type of these types of literacy in the society. Lets consider some of the most common discussed types of literacies.
(a) Conventional Literacy is a type of literacy that deals with reading and writing skills of letters in a particular language. It involves issues such as knowing the alphabet, phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics that govern the reading and writing skills in a conventional manner. McGee and Richgels (1996:30) describe the use of conventional literacy in terms of the behavior manifested by readers, “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.”

(b) Emergent Literacy is a type of literacy that deals with the earliest behaviors that relate to a kind of literacy in form of the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are manifested before the actual conventional level of literacy is attained. The term was first used in 1966 by a New Zealand researcher Marie Clay to describe the behaviors seen in young children when they use books and writing materials to imitate reading and writing activities, even though the children cannot actually read and write in the conventional sense (Ramsburg, 1998). Today the term has expanded in usage. 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”.

(c) Initial Literacy – A type of literacy 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.

(d) Basic Literacy – refer to a type of knowledge that is expected to be known by everyone in a particular field. In the world today, people expects everyone to know basics of conventional literacy that is to know how to read and write. For example, everyone is expected to know how to read and write as a basic literacy skill.

(e) Functional Literacy – A type of literacy that deals with application of conventional form of literacy such as reading and writing well enough to understand signs, read newspaper headings, read labels on medicine bottles, make shopping lists, read Bible, write letters, fill in forms, apply for jobs, practice the language skills verbally & in written form, reading for pleasure and purposive writing. Functional Literacy – A type or type of literacy 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.

(f) Critical literacy – A type of literacy that involves interpreting a piece more than mere piece of work such as determining what effect a writer is attempting to bring about in readers, why he or she is making that effort and just who those readers are. According to (Freire, 1970) Critical Literacy looks at the teaching of critical consciousness skills relating to an individual’s ability to perceive social, political, and economic oppression and to take action against the oppressive elements of society. 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.

(g) Aliteracy – refer to a level of conventional literacy analysis that deals with literate individuals who are lazy to apply reading and writing skills regularly. In other ways, an alliterate person is he or she who knows how to read and write but cannot apply this skill to read a book, an article, a newspaper and other written materials.

(h) Profession Literacy – A type of knowledge specialized in a particular field or profession. It looks at individuals specialized in particular professions such as; Medical profession, teaching profession, legal profession and others.

(I) Legal Literacy – A type 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.

(J) Medical Literacy – A type 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.

(K) Financial literacy – A type of literacy that looks at accounting, auditing, and any other profession relating to money or financial management issues.

(L) Statistical literacy – A type 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.

(M) Film Literacy – skills and abilities possessed by an individual to practice the art and craft of film making and its processes. Processing the messages packaged in films is also a form of film literacy.

(N) Teaching literacy – A form of literacy that focuses on an individual’s abilities to teach effectively in a particular subject matter. He or she understand the craft of teaching and the necessities that can be applied for an effective teacher.

(O) Workforce literacy – A type of literacy that prepares an individual to know what transpires at a workplace before they start work. It deals with a pre-service employment preparation for an individual intending to be in a particular profession.

(P) Workplace literacy – A type of literacy that supports current workers already in employment with regard to their rights, conditions of service and their plight.

(Q) Survival Literacy – A type of functional literacy that involves teaching survival skills like income generating skills that empowers societies economically to be independent and self-sustaining. Applying other forms of literacy such as reading to survive.

(R) Business Literacy – A type 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.

(S) Street Literacy – A type 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.

(T) Scientific Literacy – A type of literacy that categorically addresses the scientific know how of popular science disciplines.

(U) Agricultural literacy – An individual’s ability to farm, establish and ascertain agricultural related environments and practice the actual competencies in the field. Knowledge of the soil that support good farming and what types of crops to grow, when and where is all part of agriculture literacy.

(V) Computer Literacy – A type 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. Computer Literacy – A type 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.

(W) Technological literacy – This form of literacy refer to an individual’s ability to use technology tools to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create and communicate information. It also extends to the knowledge possessed to create or develop technology related products in a broad sense. This includes to that look at technological issues.

(X) Ecological literacy – refer to an individual’s ability to understand the natural systems that makes life on earth possible. This include such things as nature (water, trees, glass, animals and others) that suport human life.

(Y) Translitertacy – Refer to the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks (http://firstmonday.org/article/view/2060/1908).

(Z) Magical Literacy – A type 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.

(AA) Cultural and Cross Cultural Literacy – A type 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. 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 Cultural and Cross Cultural Literacy – A type 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. 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”.
(BB) Family literacy – A type of literacy that looks at family related matters with regard to how to keep a wife, a husband, children and other relatives happily and morally right. It deals with knowledge on how to be in a family, relationships, resolve family conflicts internally, keeping secretes under the roof and home economics.
(CC) Art(s) Literacy – A type 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 film and 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. Art(s) Literacy – A type 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 film and 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.
(DD) Civic Literacy – A type of literacy that looks at the plight of citizens, patriotism, rights, the city, powers of leaders and how the nation is run and being governed. This type of education is offered to the citizens on different issues concerning the affairs of the country and the world. Civic Literacy – A type of literacy that looks at the plight of citizens, patriotism, rights, the city, powers of leaders and how the nation is run and being governed. This type of education is offered to the citizens on different issues concerning the affairs of the country and the world.
(EE) Electoral Literacy – A type 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. Electoral Literacy – A type 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.
(FF) Adult Literacy – A type 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. Adult Literacy – A type 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.
(GG) Information Literacy – A type or type of literacy 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. 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).
(HH) Media Literacy – A type 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.
(II) Political Literacy – A type 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.
(JJ) Popular Literacy – A type 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.
(KK) Diaspora literacy
This is the ability to understand the traditions, beliefs, culture and communication patterns from a scattered population with a common origin in a geographical area. Diaspora folk stories, words, and other folk sayings within any given community of a particular diaspora constitute diaspora literacy. All the knowledge and experience of political, social, historical, and cultural climates of the various cultures of the people in a particular diaspora constitutes diaspora literacy.
(LL) Electoral Literacy (Electracy) – Electracy is a form 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 election process.
(MM) Emotional literacy – Emotional literacy refer to one’s ability to manage and understand their emotions as well as that of others. Emotionally literate people listen to others and empathise with their emotions. They express their emotions productively.
(NN) oral literacy – Oral literacy (Oracy) refer to the ability to transfer norms, traditions, customs, culture and language from one generation or person to another through the word of mouth. It is the oldest communication and teaching method in the history of humanity.
(OO) 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).
(PP) Visual literacy – A type 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.

REFERENCES
Barton, D. (2007). Literacy: An introduction to the ecology of the written Language. 2nd Ed. USA. Blackwell Publishing.
Bowman, K. and G. Woolf, (1994). Literacy and Power in the Ancient World. Cambridge.
Cope, B. and Kalantzis, M. (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Designs of Social futures. London: Routledge.
Graff, H. J. (1991). The literacy myth: cultural integration and social structure in the nineteenth century. Transaction Publishers. p. xxvi. ISBN 978-0-88738-884-2
Olson D. R. and Torrance, N. (2009). The Cambridge handbook of literacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Corridors of Hope II (2008). Reflect Methodology and Participatory Rural Apraisal (PRA) Tools Guide. Lusaka: Corridors of Hope.
Duffy, M, Fransman, J, and Pearce, E. (2009). Review of 16 Reflect Evaluations.
Dvv International, (2009).Adult Education and Development. International conference on financing adult education for development held on 23-24 June 2009 in Bonn, Germany.
Barton, D. (2007). Literacy; An introduction to the ecology of the written Language.2ndEd.USA.Blackwell publishing.
Steiner, C. & Perry, P. (1997) Achieving Emotional Literacy. London: Bloomsbury.

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About Sitwe

Sitwe Benson is a citizen of the world based in Zambia. He is never alone.
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