Advanced Essay #2 [What is Literacy to You?]


In this paper I focused on the definition of literacy and why we cannot assess how literate someone is. I am very proud of my thesis and think that I was able to clearly articulate the point I was trying to make. I focused on trying to connect my scene to my thesis. This is something that I would like to work on. There is always something to improve on as a writer. For the next piece my focus will be on transitions and connections.

We all have moments in our lives that shape our definitions of literacy. For me a big factor was living in a home where three languages were spoken. Farsi with my father, Italian with my mother, and English with my siblings. I learned early on that being literate did not only refer to how well one wrote, but if you understood what a person was saying, not only in your mother tongue but any other languages you have picked up on your way to adulthood.

One of my favorite memories that has shaped my definition of literacy is of when I was little and my sister and I would curl up beside our mom and read italian fables together.This is one of my earliest memories of reading. She’d ask us which story we should start with that night. The answer was always the same.

Fiabe italiane

There came a point when we knew the story so well we’d say the next line before our mom read it out loud. My favorite part of the fables was the cover of the book. It was an elephant holding the same book we were reading. Within his cover there was a smaller elephant holding the book. It went on until I could no longer see the elephant holding another book with another elephant on it.

This got me to thinking, what if each elephant was reading the same story but seeing it differently. I thought there was a universal definition for literacy but found that each site I visited had a different definition for literacy.

a person's knowledge of a particular subject or field”

“the quality or state of being literate” -Merriam-Webster

The condition or quality of being literate, especially the ability to read and write.”-The Free Dictionary

“Literacy is the ability to use printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential.” -National Center for Education Statistics.

All of these definitions have one thing in common. They assess someone's knowledge and their ability to write. But through all I have experienced I have learned that because there are so many different dialects and accents, we cannot and do not tell someone that the way they speak is incorrect. We acknowledge that there are accents and dialects within one language. Why is it different when we write or read? Isn’t writing and reading a type of language that is spoken? It is an expression, an art, that must be interpreted by each individual person. The artist's feelings might be different than the observer's feelings. That is the beautiful thing about art, it allows us to express what we are feeling and allow another to see our work and let it become something to them, even if it is different from our interpretation. Just as each elephant on the cover of the italian fables may have interpreted the story they were reading differently. Just like how my sister and I had different reasons for loving the stories in “Fiabe Italiane”

Literacy is unique because it has to be molded to the person it is describing. In some schools English class is labeled as Literacy class, but are the teachers teaching them what it means to be literate? They are teaching them grammar, rules of the English language, how to read, how to analyze a text. They are not teaching them to express themselves through the things they read and the stories they write, or the drawings they draw. As I write, I realize that I am writing with bias, but rightfully so. My definition of literacy has shaped the way I have written this essay. But in a way to you, the reader, I am allowing you to see my views and allowing you to form your own opinions about the questions and opinions I am raising.

I’ve often wondered if we can assess how literate someone is. We each obviously have a different definition of what it means. I understand not writing with correct grammar. But grammar is something that has a set of rules that must be followed for each language. In class we wrote down our definitions for literacy, but in the end we were given a definition(“Reading the word and reading the world”) to follow for our project. The thing that makes literacy so unique is the vast amount of different definitions people have. These definitions show how the person grew up and how they see the world around them. I read books to see the world through the main character's eyes. I love to see and understand the way others read the world. My definition is different than yours. Isn’t that the great part of literacy? It has so many interpretations, meanings, and impacts. It sets us apart and lets us appreciate how one act or image can be described in so many unique and diverse ways.

Work Cited:

Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.

<>., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.


"National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) - Definition of Literacy." National Assessment

of Adult Literacy (NAAL) - Definition of Literacy. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. <>.

"Literacy." The Free Dictionary. Farlex, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.