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What is Literacy?

When we think of literacy we tend to think of reading, writing, spelling, grammar, or numeracy.  Literacy includes these things but is also a broad concept encompassing much more.  It is the ability to use an ever changing set of tools in situations we experience.  Literacy gives us access to opportunities, challenges, and enjoyment in our society.

Some everyday literacy examples include:

  • Shopping
  • Using a computer, e.g. email
  • Texting on a mobile phone
  • Filling in different forms
  • Using public transport timetables

Our many forms of engagement with the world includes technology, emotional wellbeing, financial management, and social expression.  We need to be in a position to negotiate these contexts—to be literate in these—so that we may participate fully in our society.

Literacy is about making sense of the world around us.  Literacy is an acquired ability to understand, observe, analyse and critically respond as required.  It fulfills our need for information to be able to function within a community, to develop, and to achieve goals.

Literacy begins with the needs and actions of the learner.  People’s needs change over time, so the focus should be less about the accumulation of facts, and more about learning how to learn, so that people are able to manage new situations with confidence.