4. Nurturing Literacy in English: How Does This Magic Happen?
Nurturing Literacy in English
How Does This Magic Happen?
Most English-speaking Americans are literate; that is, they can read and write. And, though few people think much about it, Americans use literacy every day for a wide range of purposes. They read books for advice on how to manage their time and money. They read manuals to figure out how to install a computer program. They write e-mails asking their colleagues for information, complaining to their friends about their significant others, and reporting progress to their bosses. When we look carefully at what people do with literacy, however, we realize that it is much more than the ability to write b-r-e-a-d on a grocery list or to read o-p-e-n on the door of a repair shop.
Literacy is a tool for making things happen in the world. Indeed, it is a tool for changing the world itself. Recent events offer a useful illustration. A wave of major protests across the Arab world that began in late 2010, commonly known as the Arab Spring, forced new leadership in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen; civil unrest continues in several other countries in the region. These events depended heavily on social media, which has opened new possibilities for communication in repressive societies. In this case, it allowed citizens to share information with each other and the world, as well as to plan concerted political actions. Still: the existence of social media itself would...
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