The recent Washington Post article "The Eye Generation Prefers Not to Read All About It" explores the importance of supporting visual literacy in the classroom. The article suggests that “students are taught how to read and how to react critically to literature, but not about visual images” and concludes that “students today need to be taught, through images, how to think critically.”
Focusing on visual literacy is nothing new for NCTE. In 1970, NCTE members approved the Resolution on Media Literacy, urging the profession to “explore more vigorously the relationship of the learning and teaching of media literacy to other concerns of English instruction” and asking that “this exploration be made in the total context of the development of students to control and direct their own lives.”
NCTE discusses even wider understandings of literacy than the Washington Post article. The NCTE Summary Statement on Multimodal Literacies suggests the range of media that comprise 21st Century literacy. Students should be asked to think critically about still images, photos, movies, animations, drama, art, alphabetic and nonalphabetic text, music, speech, sound, physical movement, gaming, and so on.
English teachers recognized long ago that literacy means far more than simply reading and writing words on a sheet of paper. Our job is to encourage students to form wider and deeper definitions of literacy. ReadWriteThink offers three lessons that can be used to reach students at each grade level:
- Developing a Living Definition of Reading in the Elementary Classroom (E)
- Developing a Definition of Reading through Analysis in Middle School (M)
Literacy in a Digital World (S-C)