What Makes a Literacy?

Miller, Olivia


Bergson-Michelson, T. and Serof, J. (2016). What makes a literacy? Knowledge Quest 44(5).
This essay clearly and concisely defines “literacy” in a way the explains all the contemporary uses of “literacy” that have been springing up in educational contexts: digital literacy, civic literacy, financial literacy, etc. Answers the question: are these emerging skill sets the province of school librarians? With a resounding YES. Defines literacy and fundamentally a sense-making process; traditional literacy (as in, learning to read and write) transforms symbols on a page into consumable content and information. Other kinds of literacy similarly transform the unknown into sensible components. Students are struggling with sense-making in new contexts; school librarians can help. This includes learning to ask the right kinds of question as a learning process skill that can be applied everywhere. New situations, subjects, and technologies are not impossible to tackle if students know how and what kinds of questions to ask.
This essay is very short; I felt its conciseness actually helped its articulateness. Literacy is a huge topic that branches out into many different kinds of things. This helped me step back and understand it before diving into to more particular details and sub-topics like 21st Century Skills and Digital Literacy. It also contains references to scholars and other essays that become more specific under the Literacy umbrella. A strong piece with many paths to other readings and references.

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