Rethinking Literacy Studies: From the Past to the Present

Kelder, Richard
Date of publication: 
Mon, 1996-01-01

It is critical for administrators and teachers involved in adult literacy programs to be aware of the rich body of research
in the area of literacy studies. Reviewing the research literature in literacy studies demands infinite patience to
deconstruct the multilayered meanings of the concept of literacy as well as a critical temperament to determine what is
significant from what is not. Clearly, literacy is a loaded term that is also embedded in myths associated with social and
economic progress, political democracy, social and educational mobility, and the development of cognitive skills (Graff,
1981, 1987, 1988, 1995). Graff (1995) reminds readers that the concept of literacy has historically represented and
continues to represent different things to people. This ambiguity has contributed to what has become known as "the
literacy myth." To demythologize the concept, it is necessary to execute what Scribner and Cole (1988) call a process of
"unpackaging literacy" and which Scribner (1988) does by using the metaphors of "adaptation," "power" and "state of
grace" to refer to literacy.