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The Importance of Literacy in Education

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Literacy is probably the single-most important part of education. Without literacy, all other learning is impossible. Literacy involves using reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing to gain more knowledge. Without the ability to do any of these skills, there is absolutely no way to acquire more knowledge. Literacy is essential for learning. It is crucial that language arts teachers are not the only ones in the school stressing the importance of literacy. While the language arts teachers may be the only ones truly teaching literacy, it is the job of all educators to facilitate literacy learning. Literacy must come before any other learning can occur, and we cannot grow as a society without literacy.

Balance is extremely important within the curriculum. Students need a variety of literacies to help them learn to their fullest potential. With the growth of technology, it is much easier to use multiple literacies. Students have the opportunity to be exposed to technology in the classroom daily. This is a digital age, so technology might relate best to the students. This balance of literacy can also happen through varied teaching styles, reading novels, writing papers, creating projects, and making presentations. Students should not merely be taught one genre. A balance from classic to contemporary is necessary. It is important to have variety in order to best promote literacy.

With English Language Learners in the classroom, it is necessary to differentiate. They will likely be unable to handle everything the same as the native speakers. Each student is unique and learns differently. It is important to tailor the lesson to most appropriately meet their needs. English is an extremely difficult language to learn, so patience and support are needed to most successfully help a non-native English speaker become literate.

However, differentiation is essential for all students and not just for ELLs. It does no good to try to force a struggling reader to keep up with the other students. They will only fall further behind. It is important to have options with readings. That way, the struggling reader can read something close to their level and help catch them up. With differentiation, it is important to relate the curriculum to the students. They need to see how the information being taught in school is applicable to their lives. It is natural for people to be more willing to learn when something sparks their interest. Teachers must give options and use variety to address multiple literacies to help each student learn to their fullest potential.

Students will come from an array of backgrounds and have different dialects. It is important for the teacher to model Standard American English. The students will follow the teacher, so it is necessary to set a good example by using SAE. When modeling and using SAE, it is necessary to not demean the dialect of anyone else. It is important that the students know their dialect is not wrong. Students should never feel alienated for speaking in their natural dialect. They should be taught about code-switching and how certain dialects can be more appropriate depending on the situation.

Writing is a process. It is not a simple set of steps into which one can just plug information. Simply teaching the steps of the writing process is worthless. Memorizing the order of steps does no good. It is important to implement them and practice. The students need to see how these steps are useful and will help them. The writing process can be taught by modeling it for the students. That way they could see exactly how it works. While teaching the writing process, it would be an ideal time to teach the mechanics of writing. Lessons about grammar and writing mechanics cannot be taught as individual entities. They must be used in conjunction with the rest of the curriculum. Grammar and writing mechanics need to be integrated into the general curriculum and not taught as separate units.

Vocabulary and spelling should also be taught with the rest of the curriculum and not separate from it. If the students are reading a novel, the spelling and vocabulary words should come from that novel. Everything should be related. Certain aspects of the curriculum cannot just be taught as separate entities within the curriculum. The students need to see a relation between different parts of the curriculum, and it is the teacher’s job to make the connection. If students can use schema to link ideas together, their retention rate will be much higher. Integrating vocabulary and spelling into the rest of curriculum can really enhance student learning and make the concepts more relevant to them.

Teaching is not something that can be confined to one set way. There are many different approaches that can be used successfully. It is not a problem if teachers do not always agree on the way things are taught. One method might work better for one teacher, while another works better for someone else. This should not be a cause for concern or conflict. Disagreements among teachers are sure to arise, but they simply need to be explained. This way the dispute between the parties can be resolved. Disputes in styles could even lead to exploring new ideas and methods, which in turn would result in the growth of the educators.


Joel (author) from Ohio on August 15, 2013:

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@Shyron - Thank you for reading, voting, and sharing. I feel the same way about the English language as you do. I love being an English teacher because I get to explore the language each day with my students.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on August 12, 2013:

Joelipoo, I really enjoyed this article. Voted up and shared.

I love learning, reading and writing, I love words.

The English language to me is a living language. What a word means today could be something else tomorrow, with lots of slang words and with ASL's omitting of words.


Joel (author) from Ohio on August 15, 2012:

@World - Thanks for such positive feedback.

World Literacy Foundation on August 15, 2012:

This is a fantastic article- do you mind if I paste it on the World Literacy Tumblr page?

Please let me know via

Joel (author) from Ohio on January 29, 2012:

@The Finance - Thanks. You are right that reading makes the difference. People who are unable to read well are at a disadvantage in all their subjects. However, you are a success story because you pursued that GED after dropping out and made the best out of it. Congrats!

@annart - You are welcome, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for your kind comment. Literacy is really something that needs to go across the board and be done in a way that doesn't scare the students off.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 29, 2012:

As a teacher of dyslexics I have always encouraged and aided my colleagues to look at the literacy within their subjects. Often I've given pointers to the presentation of subjects in order to make them more 'dyslexic friendly' - however, this approach is always friendly to any students! Thank you. Voted up and interesting.

Joel (author) from Ohio on January 27, 2012:

@billy - Thank you. I have done a lot of thinking about literacy and obviously stress its importance as a language arts teacher. It must be part of the curriculum across the board and not just in English classes.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 27, 2012:

Bravo! As an ex-teacher I wholeheartedly agree. Kids would always ask me why I, as a social studies and science teacher, insisted that they read and write so put into words exactly why I insisted upon it.

Joel (author) from Ohio on January 27, 2012:

@jain - You are welcome. I'm glad you found it useful.

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on January 27, 2012:

This is valuable and important information. Thank you for sharing it.

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