To me, literacy has always been a word that is easily defined. Based on my vocabulary, literacy has always been basically the ability to read, write and verbally communicate with people. The past two weeks of class have definitely challenged my "basic" definition, however the question of literacy has been troubling me for the past few months.
Last week my word was Cultural/Social literacy, it was in our reading and it came to me because of a conversation that I had recently with my Dad. My Dad has recently started tutoring adults who cannot, or have limited, writing and reading skills. The program is completely voluntary and free to people that want to participate, when my Dad first started the tutoring I asked him why these adults had chosen to join the program and learn to read and write now at this stage in their lives. One woman wanted to be able to read along with the hymnal at her church, another woman had a 7 year old daughter who she could no longer help with her homework, etc. The one person that I found the most interesting was a man who had just found out that he was illiterate (by society's standards). He's in his mid-thirties, and had always held a steady job (mostly, fast food, stocking, or construction). He grew up and lived in a low-income neighborhood in Richmond and although he hadn't finished high school, he was considered one of the smarter people in his family and neighborhood because he always had a job. I'm not sure of the exact details, however he recently took a literacy test to evaluate his reading and writing and his results showed that he had a reading writing level of a young elementary school student ( I don't know the exact age or level). For all of these years, he has been labeled as smart and literate in his community, now because of a test he is categorized as somewhat illiterate. Is he really illiterate though? In his culture he is considered literate; he communicates with his family, co-workers, and employers. He's always been able to hold a job, which his low level of reading and writing never affected. This situation brought me back to thinking about what literacy, or being literate, really means. I can't confidently define the word literacy anymore, it's a much broader word than I always thought that it was. However, I like the idea that there's not blanket definition for what seems to be a huge concept.