Literacy: An International Handbook

Literacy: An International Handbook

Literacy: An International Handbook

Literacy: An International Handbook

Synopsis

The written word has a rich and varied history, one which transcends different disciplines, contexts -- even countries. Literacy: An International Handbook is an ambitious, interdisciplinary survey from around the globe. This volume of 82 original essays tackles a wide array of scholarly and social issues -- from early reading to adult literacy -- through a far-reaching, international perspective. Thanks to its breadth, attention to international issues, and cross-disciplinary nature, editors Daniel A. Wagner, Richard Venezky, and Brian Street have assembled, for the first time anywhere, the definitive compendium of worldwide literacy issues. Contributors approach the conceptualization of literacy from different disciplines, perspectives, and historical situations: What have been the consequences and implications of the acquisition of literacy for societies and for individuals, at different points in time and in different cultural contexts? How has the diagnosis and remediation of reading and writing disabilities of both children and adults changed over the years? What is the significance of literacy in and for religious practices? How are literacy and numeracy linked conceptually and theoretically? How does gender intersect with literacy development? Literacy tackles these questions and many more. Divided into ten sections, the book includes readings on the following topics: Historical and Philosophical Roots; Psychology of Reading; Sociology/Anthropology; Linguistics and Literacy; Curriculum and Instruction; Literacy Assessment; Numeracy; Policy Perspectives; Contemporary Regional Perspectives; and Looking Ahead at Literacy.

Excerpt

Federico Mayor Director-General, unesco

Literacy is at the heart of world development and human rights. Its importance lies in what precedes literacy: the words that are the expression of human thought. Its importance lies equally in what can then be done with the written word, which conveys thought across time and across space and makes the reader a "co-author" and active interpreter of the text. An oral society relies on memory to transmit its history, literature, laws, or music, whereas the written word allows infinite possibilities of transmission and therefore of active participation in communication. These possibilities are what makes the goal of universal literacy so important.

More than fifty years ago, the achievement of world literacy became a central priority of the United Nations, and unesco was given primary responsibility for followup with planning and activities worldwide. At that time, most children in developing countries had never been to school. Today, our first concern remains to ensure that the world's children become numerate and literate through the provision of basic education for all. Another concern for us, in our multicultural world, is to encourage multilingualism: Once children have acquired literacy skills, language-learning becomes another priority.

With an estimated 100 million children out-of-school worldwide, we are still a considerable way from achieving these goals. a tremendous effort has been made, so that figure, although high, does fall short of the 150 million predicted back in 1990 when we launched the Basic Education for All initiative at the Jomtien Conference. Nevertheless, in spite of the positive achievements of the past decade, the challenge of universal literacy remains immense. As one can see from the publication of this volume, Literacy: An International Handbook, our work is far from done. There remain large areas of low literacy and illiteracy in today's world. As long as that is the case, adult literacy will remain another crucial priority. Programs of nonformal education and adult literacy are becoming more important in poor and rich countries alike, especially with the realization that basic reading and writing mastery must be accompanied by income-generating skills, if people's living conditions are to be improved.

Literacy: An International Handbook offers a comprehensive view on what a diverse group of outstanding specialists knows and thinks about literacy, from historical as well as contemporary perspectives. I am grateful that the many authors have taken their time to put their latest thinking into this handbook. Those of us in the policy arena will now try to utilize this information and these new ideas to their . . .

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