American Literacy in the 21st Century

Topics: Literacy, 21st century, Reading Pages: 5 (1570 words) Published: April 3, 2013
American Literacy in the 21st Century
Paula Hernandez
ENG 122 – English Composition II
February 18, 2013

American Literacy in the 21st Century
Since the arrival of the internet and the rapid evolution of technology, times have changed our notion of literacy. Americans are neither more nor less literate than before, because the meaning of literacy has evolved due to advances in technology. Every American is literate to a certain degree. Being literate in this age of information, you must not only be able to read and write, but have knowledge on how to effectively and efficiently use technology as a mode of communication. The ever changing meaning of literacy has transformed over time, and Americans are using this new digital literacy in their everyday lives. To truly seek out the meaning of literacy, we first, must grasp and comprehend the past denotations. According to the United Nations Regional Information Center for Western Europe (2012) in the Evolved Definition of Literacy, the most common definition of “literacy” refers to those with the ability to read and write, but that meaning is actually a relatively recent phenomenon. The late 19th century, literate referred to those who were familiar with literature or were generally well-educated. In the efforts to define and redefine the term in the 20th and 21st centuries, intense academic debate has taken place, since the word’s meaning has evolved into a more inclusive and perplexed state (UNRIC, 2012). To understand the most current definition of literacy, the past meanings is crucial in understanding the present and future implication of be literate. As the meaning of literacy morphs into a more complex definition, the advancement in technology impacts the new and controversial denotation. Scholars are now realizing that the meaning of the word literacy has developed into a complex definition. The National Council of Teacher of English (2008) agrees that the meaning of literacy has transformed, in the article The Definition of 21st Century Literacies, “technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies” (NCTE, para. 1). Readers and writers in this information age must be able to proficient with technology tools, work with others to solve problems collaboratively, analyze and synthesize large amount of information. And according to the United Nations Regional Information Center for Western Europe (2012) in the Evolved Definition of Literacy, “the set of technical skills of reading, writing and calculating . . . to a plural notion encompassing the manifold of meanings and dimensions of these undeniably vital competencies. Such a view, responding to recent economic, political and social transformations, including globalization, and the advancement of information and communication technologies, recognizes that there are many practices of literacy embedded in different cultural processes, personal circumstances and collective structures” (UNRIC, 2012). With the improvement of technology the meaning of being literate as morphed to refer on having skills with reading, writing, gathering information, and communication. The conversion of literacy to this modern transformation of digital literacy is becoming widely known among society. The complexly of the evolving definition of literacy may be broken into types of literacy. According to the website (2008), in the article The National Institute for Literacy – Stats and Resources, there are three “types of literacy”: prose literacy which is the ability to read and comprehend documents with continuous text, document literacy the ability to read and understand documents with non-continuous text, and quantitative literacy ability to perform computation (para 1). These three types of literacy can range from reading and understanding newspaper...

Cited: Page (2008). The National Institute for Literacy – Stats and Resources. Retrieved January 23, 2013, from
Leu, D.J. & Zaqilinski, L., Castek, J., Banerjee, M., Howsand, B.C., Liu, Y., & O’Neil, M. (2007). What Is New About the New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension? In Secondary School Literacy: What Research Reveals for Classroom Practice (Chapter 3, p.37-68). Retrieved January 16, 2013, from
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