Literacy: How Should We Define It?

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy study done in 2003 (the latest study), approximately 14% of adult Americans are functionally illiterate. However,  looking at Georgia alone, 17% of the adult population lacks basic literary skills.  (You can view more statistics here.)  How does this effect us?

How should we define literacy? The Oxford English Dictionary Online defines literacy as “The quality, condition, or state of being literate; the ability to read and write” (“Literacy”).  Through the recent legislative look at the No Child Left Behind Act, some have been discussing expanding the definition of literacy to include what we have formerly separated as “computer literacy.” Do you think this is a valid argument? Should literacy extend beyond writing and reading to an ability to engage in these actions in a digital form?


“Definitions of Literacy Terms in ESEA.” National Council of Teachers of English. NCTE. 29 March 2012. Web. Retrieved on 2 April 2012 from

“Literacy.” Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved on 2 April 2012 from

“National Assessment of Adult Literacy.” National Center for Educational Statistics. Institute of Educational Sciences. 2003. Web. Retrieved on 2 April 2012 from