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Framework -> Definition of Literacy

NAAL defines literacy as both task-based and skills-based. The task-based definition of literacy, used in both the 1992 and 2003 assessments, focuses on the everyday literacy tasks an adult can and cannot perform.

The 2003 NAAL adds a complementary skills-based definition of literacy that focuses on the knowledge and skills an adult must possess in order to perform these tasks. These skills range from basic, word-level skills (such as recognizing words) to higher level skills (such as drawing appropriate inferences from continuous text). New information provided by the 2003 NAAL is intended to improve understanding of the skill differences between adults who are able to perform relatively challenging literacy tasks and those who are not.

to perform literacy tasks Task-based (conceptual) definition

Literacy is 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.

The skills required Skills-based (operational) definition

Successful use of printed material is a product of two classes of skills:

  • Word-level reading skills
  • Higher level literacy skills

SOURCE: White, S., and McCloskey, M. (forthcoming). Framework for the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2005-531). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.