The concept of literacy has changed dramatically from its initial definition of simply being able to read and write; today, literacy involves being able to communicate, to understand, to apply knowledge, and to demonstrate competence in a given subject area. However, teaching a person how to be literate falls under a different umbrella – literacy education. This, many would argue, is the responsibility of nearly all educators. Whether it is the mathematics teacher, working with young children to interpret word problems into algebraic formulas, or the English teacher, working with students on the analysis of a piece of poetry, all educators play some role in working with students of all ages to develop literacy skills.
Literacy education – teaching students how to be literate – provides students with a host of skills that go beyond the pages of a book. Research has shown that as literacy education increases, students are more likely to display self-regulation and executive function; they are more likely to pay attention, regulate their activities, set goals, and control various impulses. Word games like Scrabble, jokes or riddles, or using language in new ways, such as rhymes and songs, all give students the ability to manipulate language in new ways; this can reach those who do not find enjoyment in reading books or other forms of literature and still provide them with necessary literacy instruction. As students mature, allowing them to think about the words they are reading, the language they are using, and the media they are consuming further demonstrates literacy education. By becoming informed, educated consumers of information, they can analyze sources and make decisions based on such concepts as bias and scope, resulting in a more informed individual and a greater likelihood of informed choices based on the knowledge gained. Literacy education is vital for someone to be a fully participating member of any given society; in order for this to be the end result, though, children need to be offered multiple avenues of literacy education at the various points of the social, cognitive, and academic development.