Literacy and Literacies in the 21st Century

Kyra Kietrys, Hispanic Studies, Davidson College

This seminar is appropriate for K-12 teachers of all disciplines, as we will be defining literacy in the broadest sense. We will be looking at literacy in its primary sense, as well as its extended meanings. That is, we will explore not only language literacy—or ways to develop reading and writing skills—but also ways to develop our students’ abilities to “‘read’ a specified meaning or subject” (Oxford English Dictionary). Through each exploration of the multiple literacies examined, the undergirding questions will be, “How does acquiring this particular literacy affect our bidirectional interactions with our local and global communities? And, how does our new knowledge enhance our understanding of diversity and equity within and across these communities?”

We will look at basic language literacy, in both first and second languages, exploring questions such as: How do we engage our students through reading and writing? What are some of the differences and similarities between first and second language acquisition? What is a “mother-tongue” and what is the cost of losing it? In addition to language literacy, Fellows in this seminar will explore other issues relevant to today’s young learners’ development in a multi-cultural and diverse world. We will look at cultural literacy and intercultural proficiencies, exploring both domestic and international cultural differences and examining the customs, practices and behaviors that distinguish one culture from another, as well as common elements among cultures. Other possible literacies to be explored include visual literacy, spatial literacy, historical literacy, informational literacy and digital literacy.

Some texts to consider could include:

  • Tankersley, Karen. Threads of Reading: Strategies for Literacy Development. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2003.
  • “What Is It Made from? Toward a Cultural Theory of Reading.” Review of Educational Research1 (2001): 133-169.
  • Johnson, Richard. The Practice of Cultural Studies. London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2004.
  • Oswell, David. Culture and Society: An Introduction to Cultural Studies. London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2006.

Explore curriculum units developed by Fellows in this seminar here.