To point out that these forms of literacy are ignored in literacy tests
is not to fault the tests. The measurement problems involved in testing
them would be difficult and perhaps insurmountable: we could not say
what it is in general to write the story of one's life adequately;
and the literacy of public discourse involves not just informational
reading, but critical reading from diverse perspectives. But even if
these forms of literacy are difficult to measure, they are important
in literacy practice. People often come to study because they want to
write their stories, and many programs find that learners' stories and
other narratives, in fiction or history, are at the heart of literacy
work. Other people come to study because they
The most common use of literacy statistics is to assert that a certain proportion of people can't cope with everyday literacy demands. But such claims do not tell us how many people can avoid everyday literacy demands by using information sources other than print, or asking someone for help. They do not tell us how many people feel that limited literacy is a problem, feel a need or desire to improve their literacy. Neither do they tell us how much literacy programming we should provide.
In literacy programs, we see that many people strongly associate literacy
with personal competence and satisfaction, and with social effectiveness.
Media accounts often portray people who are
15 The implications of data on self-perceived need and programming preferences, are explored by Stan Jones,
"Literacy Programming and the Survey of Literacy Skills Used in Daily Activities", in Statistics Canada, Adult Literacy in Canada ..., 95-101.
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