College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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literacy, discourses, class, education, reading


Literacy statistics presented in the National Endowment for the Arts "To Read or Not To Read" study and the National Assessment of Adult Literacy "Literacy in Everyday Life" study show a strong correlation between reading proficiency and socioeconomic success that are impossible to ignore. Although literacy is often thought to be the simple ability to read or write, the discussion surrounding literacy in this country implies an evaluation of the way people use these abilities. While reading tests may appear to measure quantitative skills, essentially whether a person can or cannot read, what they truly do is evaluate whether a person is able to use these skills in the way literacy is taught in school, termed "schooled literacy." When we assume that literacy is only the possession of rudimentary reading and writing skills, we fail to acknolwedge that there are mulitple forms of literacy. Similarly, when we label one person as "literate" and another person as "illiterate," we judge how well they use schooled literacy. Because society values schooled literacy over other forms, literacy works to reinforce hierarchies between socially disparate groups. Examining how this hierarchy operates is an important first step in understanding that how a person reads and writes is as important as, if not more important than, merely whether a person can read and write.