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What is Literacy?
While the history of literacy goes back several thousand years to the invention of writing, what constitutes literacy has changed over time. For example, at one time:
- Literacy was measured only by the ability to read and write Latin (regardless of a person's ability to read or write his or her language).
- Literacy was measured by the ability to recite passages of scripture and sing.
- The ability to read did not necessarily imply the ability to write.
- Being literate meant being able to mark an "X" on a deed.
- A literate person was one who could sign his or her name.
A current definition of literacy is provided by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 which defines literacy as "an individual's ability to read, write, speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual and in society." This is a broader view of literacy than just an individual's ability to read, the more traditional concept of literacy. This definition also reflects the idea that lliteracy is viewed as a continuum of learning that enables an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully within multiple contexts of the wider society.