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What It Means to Be Literate Now Essay

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Updated: Jun 12th, 2021

For decades and even centuries, literacy was associated with the ability to read and write exclusively. However, these skills are far from being sufficient to be successful in the 21st century. People start adding more meanings to the notion, which leads to a certain confusion in the society, educational systems, as well as people’s minds (Mackenzie 1). Although a specific definition has not been developed, people agree that being literate includes but is not confined to being able to understand textual, visual, and audial information (Kędra 67). Educators also argue that critical thinking and social skills, as well as the ability to use diverse types of technology, are as important as the ones mentioned above. It is possible to note that literate people of the 21st century can appropriately process and respond to textual, visual, audial, social, cultural, technology-based messages.

Such areas of knowledge as reading and writing have been associated with literacy, which has not changed throughout decades. Being literate presupposes being able to read and write texts, but these skills are only a part of the basic items on the list (Kędra 67). Educators emphasize that contemporary people also need to “read” visual and audial messages to elicit as much data as possible to develop the most effective behavioral patterns (“What Does It Mean to Be Literate”). Nowadays, every individual is bombarded with diverse visual and audial bits of data, and it is critical to interpreting these messages correctly to be successful in modern society.

Importantly, critical thinking skills, as well as social and emotional literacy, are also regarded as fundamental for the current life. Children who can socialize and understand others’ emotional states have proved to be more successful than those who do not have such types of literacies (“What Does It Mean to Be Literate”). Globalization has brought people of various backgrounds together, and the representatives of different cultures have to interact in their professional and personal lives. Therefore, teachers should take into account these multiple literacies to equip their students with what they will need in their future.

It is also necessary to note that the ability to use media and technology is also a part of the literacy of the 21st century. Young people and children are savvy users of diverse types of technological advances such as mobile- and computer-based technologies (“What Does It Mean to Be Literate”). Middle-aged and older people tend to lag, which makes them less prepared to address the challenges of the modern world. Furthermore, children and adolescents are heavy users of technology, but they may use it ineffectively. Hence, teachers should make sure they help their students to overcome issues associated with the use of technology, as well as help their students’ parents to gain certain knowledge and skills.

To sum up, although it has been acknowledged that literacy is not confined to the ability to read or write, a proper definition of the notion is yet to be developed. At that, many agree that literate people of the 21st century can understand, process, and reproduce textual, visual, audial, cultural, and social information. Modern people should also be able to use technology and different types of media. Educators should ensure their students’ acquisition of all the necessary skills so that they could become successful members of society. It is necessary to remember that different age groups need a distinctive approach to raising the level of their multiple literacies.

Works Cited

Kędra, Joanna. “What Does It Mean to Be Visually Literate? Examination of Visual Literacy Definitions in a Context of Higher Education.” Journal of Visual Literacy, vol. 37, no. 2, 2018, pp. 67-84.

Mackenzie, Noella M. “Being literate: Then and now.” Practically Primary, vol. 20, no. 3, 2015, pp. 1-27.

The Literacy Site, n.d., Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, June 12). What It Means to Be Literate Now. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/what-it-means-to-be-literate-now/

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1. IvyPanda. "What It Means to Be Literate Now." June 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/what-it-means-to-be-literate-now/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. "What It Means to Be Literate Now." June 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/what-it-means-to-be-literate-now/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'What It Means to Be Literate Now'. 12 June.

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