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Reading: Date An illiterate Girl by Charles Warnke
Prehistoric literacy[ edit ] Origins of literacy[ edit ] Literacy is thought to have first emerged with the development of numeracy and computational devices as early as 8, BCE. Script developed independently at least four times in human history in Mesopotamia , Egypt , lowland Mesoamerica , and China. During this era, literacy was "a largely functional matter, propelled by the need to manage the new quantities of information and the new type of governance created by trade and large scale production". Proto-cuneiform texts exhibit not only numerical signs, but also ideograms depicting objects being counted. The Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system was the first notation system to have phonetic values. These civilizations used glyphic writing and bar-and-dot numerical notation systems for purposes related to royal iconography and calendar systems. These systematic notations were found inscribed on bones and recorded sacrifices made, tributes received, and animals hunted, which were activities of the elite. These oracle-bone inscriptions were the early ancestors of modern Chinese script and contained logosyllabic script and numerals. Origins of the alphabet[ edit ] According to social anthropologist Jack Goody , there are two interpretations that regard the origin of the alphabet. Many classical scholars, such as historian Ignace Gelb , credit the Ancient Greeks for creating the first alphabetic system c. But Goody contests, "The importance of Greek culture of the subsequent history of Western Europe has led to an over-emphasis, by classicists and others, on the addition of specific vowel signs to the set of consonantal ones that had been developed earlier in Western Asia". Much of this theory's development is credited to English archeologist Flinders Petrie , who, in , came across a series of Canaanite inscriptions located in the turquoise mines of Serabit el-Khadem. Ten years later, English Egyptologist Alan Gardiner reasoned that these letters contain an alphabet, as well as references to the Canaanite goddess Asherah. In , William F. Albright deciphered the text using additional evidence that had been discovered subsequent to Goody's findings. This included a series of inscriptions from Ugarit , discovered in by French archaeologist Claude F. Some of these inscriptions were mythological texts written in an early Canaanite dialect that consisted of a letter cuneiform consonantal alphabet. Another significant discovery was made in when three arrowheads were uncovered, each containing identical Canaanite inscriptions from twelfth century BCE. According to Frank Moore Cross , these inscriptions consisted of alphabetic signs that originated during the transitional development from pictographic script to a linear alphabet. Moreover, he asserts, "These inscriptions also provided clues to extend the decipherment of earlier and later alphabetic texts". During the Late Bronze Age , successor alphabets appeared throughout the Mediterranean region and were employed for Phoenician , Hebrew and Aramaic. According to Goody, these cuneiform scripts may have influenced the development of the Greek alphabet several centuries later. Historically, the Greeks contended that their writing system was modeled after the Phoenicians. However, many Semitic scholars now believe that Ancient Greek is more consistent with an early form Canaanite that was used c. While the earliest Greek inscriptions are dated c. Baruch ben Neriah , Jeremiah's scribe, used this alphabet to create the later scripts of the Old Testament. It was then that the new script "Square Hebrew" emerged and the older one rapidly died out. As the Bronze Age collapsed , the Aramaeans moved into Canaan and Phoenician territories and adopted their scripts. Although early evidence of this writing is scarce, archeologists have uncovered a wide range of later Aramaic texts, written as early as the seventh century BCE. Due to its longevity and prevalence in the region, Achaemenid rulers would come to adopt it as a "diplomatic language". Aramaic merchants carried older variations of the language as far as India , where it later influenced the development of Brahmi scripture. It also led to the developments of Arabic , Pahlavi an Iranian adaptation , "as well as for a range of alphabets used by early Turkish and Mongol tribes in Siberia , Mongolia and Turkestan ". The Aramaic language would die out with the spread of Islam and with it, its influence of Arabic. Ancient and post-classical literacy[ edit ] Further information: Latin alphabet Until recently it was thought that the majority of people were illiterate in ancient times. The Republic amassed huge archives of reports on every aspect of public life". And if he is illiterate he shall go at the first, third and sixth hours to someone who can teach and has been appointed for him. He shall stand before him and learn very studiously and with all gratitude. The fundamentals of a syllable, the verbs and nouns shall all be written for him and even if he does not want to he shall be compelled to read. Literacy data published by UNESCO displays that since , the adult literacy rate at the world level has increased by 5 percentage points every decade on average, from However, for four decades, the population growth was so rapid that the number of illiterate adults kept increasing, rising from million in to million in Since then, the number has fallen markedly to million in , although it remains higher than in despite decades of universal education policies, literacy interventions and the spread of print material and information and communications technology ICT. However, these trends have been far from uniform across regions. North America , Europe , West Asia , and Central Asia have achieved almost full adult literacy individuals at or over the age of 15 for both men and women. In much of the world, high youth literacy rates suggest that illiteracy will become less and less common as younger generations with higher educational attainment levels replace older ones. Progress towards gender parity in literacy started after On a worldwide scale, illiteracy disproportionately impacts women. This disparity was even starker in previous decades: Martha Nussbaum , for example, make illiterate women more vulnerable to becoming trapped in an abusive marriage, given that illiteracy limits their employment opportunities and worsens their intra-household bargaining position. Moreover, Nussbaum links literacy to the potential for women to effectively communicate and collaborate with one another in order "to participate in a larger movement for political change. Making literacy classes available can be ineffective when it conflicts with the use of the valuable limited time of women and girls. For example, literate people can be more easily trained than illiterate people, and generally have a higher socioeconomic status;  thus they enjoy better health and employment prospects. The international community has come to consider literacy as a key facilitator and goal of development. The study claims that developing literacy in this area will bring "economic empowerment and will encourage rural women to practice hygiene, which will in turn lead to the reduction of birth and death rates. This concluded that there were economic gains for the individuals, the companies they worked for, and the Exchequer, as well as the economy and the country as a whole—for example, increased GDP. Continuing the global expansion of public education is thus a frequent focus of literacy advocates. The report features countries from a variety of regions and of differing income levels, reflecting the general global consensus on "the need to empower women through the acquisition of literacy skills. In , however, the UNDP replaced the adult literacy measure with mean years of schooling. A UNDP research paper framed this change as a way to "ensure current relevance," arguing that gains in global literacy already achieved between and meant that literacy would be "unlikely to be as informative of the future. There are millions, the majority of whom are women, who lack opportunities to learn or who have insufficient skills to be able to assert this right. The challenge is to enable them to do so. This will often imply the creation of preconditions for learning through awareness raising and empowerment. This committee's charge includes ensuring equitable access to information and advocating for adult new and non-readers. They might have difficulty getting and maintaining a job, providing for their families, or even reading a story to their children. For adults, the library might be the only source of a literacy program. Diversity in Action[ edit ] Dia! Parents, caregivers, and educators can even start a book club. The organization builds on people's experience as well as education rather than trying to make up for what has not been learned. The program seeks to equip students with skills to continue learning in the future. The person becomes an example to children and grandchildren and can better serve the community. Reading Buddies matches children of adult literacy students with college students who meet with them once a week throughout the semester for an hour and a half. The college students receive course credit to try to enhance the quality and reliability of their time. The goal is to help the child gain interest in books and feel comfortable reading aloud. Time is also spent on word games, writing letters, or searching for books in the library. Throughout the semester the pair work on writing and illustrating a book together. The college student's grade is partly dependent on the completion of the book. Although Reading Buddies began primarily as an answer to the lack of child care for literacy students, it has evolved into another aspect of the program. Working since , the HLC is "committed to improving literacy by empowering adults through education". Through one-on-one tutoring, the organization works to help adult students reach at least the fifth-grade level. Broader and complementary definitions[ edit ] Traditionally, literacy is the ability to use written language actively and passively; one definition of literacy is the ability to "read, write, spell, listen, and speak". For example, in the United States , the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association have added "visually representing"[ clarification needed ] to the traditional list of competencies. Similarly, in Scotland , literacy has been defined as: Increasingly, communication in commerce and in general requires the ability to use computers and other digital technologies. Since the s, when the Internet came into wide use in the United States, some have asserted that the definition of literacy should include the ability to use tools such as web browsers , word processing programs, and text messages. Similar expanded skill sets have been called multimedia literacy , computer literacy , information literacy , and technological literacy. Other genres under study by academia include critical literacy , media literacy , ecological literacy and health literacy  With the increasing emphasis on evidence-based decision making, and the use of statistical graphics and information, statistical literacy is becoming a very important aspect of literacy in general. The International Statistical Literacy Project  is dedicated to the promotion of statistical literacy among all members of society. Given that a large part of the benefits of literacy can be obtained by having access to a literate person in the household, some recent literature in economics, starting with the work of Kaushik Basu and James Foster, distinguishes between a "proximate illiterate" and an "isolated illiterate". The former refers to an illiterate person who lives in a household with literates and the latter to an illiterate who lives in a household of all illiterates. What is of concern is that many people in poor nations are not just illiterates but isolated illiterates.
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