And, since the 1990s some organizations have defined literacy in a wide variety of ways that may go beyond the traditional ability to read and write. The following are some examples:
- “the ability to read and write … in all media (print or electronic), including digital literacy”
- “the ability to … understand … using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts”
- “the ability to read, write, speak and listen”
- “having the skills to be able to read, write and speak to understand and create meaning”
- “the ability to … communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials”
- “the ability to use printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential”. It includes three types of adult literacy: prose (e.g., a newspaper article), documents (e.g., a bus schedule), and quantitative literacy (e.g., using arithmetic operations a in product advertisement).
In the academic field, some view literacy in a more philosophical manner and propose the concept of “multiliteracies”. For example, they say, “this huge shift from traditional print-based literacy to 21st century multiliteracies reflects the impact of communication technologies and multimedia on the evolving nature of texts, as well as the skills and dispositions associated with the consumption, production, evaluation, and distribution of those texts (Borsheim, Meritt, & Reed, 2008, p. 87)”. According to cognitive neuroscientist Mark Seidenberg these “multiple literacies” have allowed educators to change the topic from reading and writing to “Literacy”. He goes on to say that some educators, when faced with criticisms of how reading is taught, “didn’t alter their practices, they changed the subject”.
Also, some organizations might include numeracy skills and technology skills separately but alongside of literacy skills.
In addition, since the 1940s the term literacy is often used to mean having knowledge or skill in a particular field (e.g., computer literacy, ecological literacy, health literacy, media literacy, quantitative literacy (numeracy) and visual literacy).