What is the Definition of Literacy?


As society has evolved, becoming more complex inthe past 50 years, so too has the definition of literacy. At one time literacy was equated exclusively with reading and illiteracy applied to those who could only read below a grade two level.

The new definition of literacy, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) 2003 is as follows:

(literacy is) the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.

(Nordtveit, Harald. 2005. “Family Literacy”,UNESCO)

This definition is significant because of its international application. There are various concepts contained here, the first being the notion of a continuum of literacy rather than the previously applied and often static categories of: illiterate, functionally literate, and literate. The inclusion of the word “compute” applies only to numeracy, a necessity in today’s society. The statement “interpret, create communicate …associated with varying contexts” underlines the importance of the numerous elements involved in reading comprehension.

One of the most integral components of this definition is that literacy enables the individual to develop to his or her potential and to participate fully in the wider society.

Is Reading the same as Literacy?


This new definition has far-reaching implications. It requires an entirely fresh set of measurements to determine literacy proficiency. Today, there are five levels of literacy in Canada, four levels in the United States.

In the United States, the American Institute of Education Sciences (IES), assesses prose literacy in four levels: Proficient, Intermediate, Basic, and Below Basic. These scales evaluate literacy in terms of comprehension, or the final out come in terms of understanding the content ofthe written word, not just the ability to read/decode the word.

At the top of the scale, a Proficient reader is able to read and understand complicated material. A Proficient reader can compare viewpoints between two newspaper editorials. At the next level, an Intermediate reader is able to accomplish “moderately challenging” tasks, such as calculating the cost of an order from a catalogue or finding a location on a map. A Basic reader can compare prices of two tickets for sports events, or understand a pamphlet describing the selection process for jury duty, and at the very bottom, the Below Basic reader can sign a form and add up a bank deposit slip or read a pill bottle, but no more.

The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) found that 14% of the adult American population only had Below Basic Skills — that’s 30 million people. A further 29% (63 million) had only Basic reading skills. If you add those together, that means that about 93 millionAmericans — 43% —would have trouble ordering goods from a catalogue.

The situation is no better in Canada. According to statistics released May 11, 2005, by Statistics Canada and the Organization for Economic Co-ordination and Development (OECD), 42% of Canadian adults between the ages of 16 and 65 CANNOT read well enough to cope with everyday life.

The Canadian levels are categorized as Poor, Weak, Adequate, and Strong. At the lowest, Level One, they read nothing. They can’t understand directions on a pill bottle, they can’t sound out letters of the alphabet, and they can’t write their own name. They fall into one of the two lower categories of literacy.

At Level Two, they are able to read a pillbottle, but reading is minimal with very poor writing skills and barely anyability to do math calculations. They can’t cope with new information. TheMovement for Canadian Literacy (MAP) estimates that 9 million out of 36 millionCanadians lack the literacy skills needed for daily living.

Level 3, is very similar to level 2, but also includes people who can read simplistic newspapers and magazines. Writing is minimal with poor grammar and spelling and very poor vocabulary. The math ability is essentially the same as Level 2.

What are the True Literacy Rates?


I caution you to remember level 3. The statistics don’t properly represent this level, because they include it in the category known as “literate.” In fact, if you look closely at the definition for Level 3, it is virtually identical to Level 2. Both describe people who cannot read well enough to understand the entire newspaper. The 2003 government statistics indicate that only 22.7% of Canadians fell into Levels 4 and 5, and only 21.1% of Americans. So how can governments claim that more than half the population is “literate”? Easy — they count Level 3 as “literate.” If you include Level 3, then 53.5 % of Americans read in the“top levels,” and 57.8% of Canadians. This sounds much better.

But it is not real literacy. When looking carefully at the definition and the test questions necessary to pass this level, it is hard to ignore the ‘dumbing down’ of the literacy exams. The questions have been made easier and in some cases answers can be subjectively marked.

This middle group, which comprises approximately 35 to 38%, takes our low literacy numbers much higher. Furthermore, when the literacy survey was done in Canada, Aboriginal groups were not included, nor were those in institutions like correctional centers. If such groups were included, the numbers of low or illiterate would be even higher.

How long does it take to have a Psychoeducational Assessment done?


Our Assessments take several hours to complete, and testing usually runs over several days. After the testing is concluded, the results are compiled in a report and reviewed in a meeting. All of our reports end with a summary and recommendations.

The clarity and thoroughness of the diagnosis iscritical, in order to give the appropriate recommendations required to help thestudent achieve to his or her full potential.

Is it possible that a student with average marks has a learning problem?


Just because a student can present as average cognitively, with academic marks in the same range, does not mean that this is where their true potential lies. Because Learning Disabilities affect people across the full range of intelligence, children can be gifted intellectually but at the same time have Learning Disabilities. In fact, if a student with a learning difficulty is achieving in the average range, he generally possesses much greater intellectual ability than these marks reflect.

Can I have the testing done in a school?


Yes, so long as the person at the school is recognized as a specialist in psychology and education. Parents often choose to go the private route for a variety of reasons. Frequently it is for speed, because there can be a year or more backlog of cases to evaluate for a school psychologist. A private psychologist may offer areas of specialization not found in the school system.

As a parent, you want to know that your psychologist is qualified to deliver the two kinds of services you need; a Psychoeducational Assessment that provides a fulldiagnosis, with a detailed action plan of treatment for the diagnosed problem, and the remedial education that is the very important follow-through componentof that.

Is one psychologist the same as another?


Many psychologists maintain a private practice, but usually the focus is on medical issues such as substance abuse, brain injury, AD/HD, psychotherapy. Their focus is not within the educational area. Those who specialize in educational or school psychology have been trained to administer Psychoeducational Assessments, and of those only a small number are equipped to provide remedial intervention.

Is testing identical everywhere?


We have developed our own structure and operational definitions. Our analysis and report writing is highly regarded for its accuracy and thoroughness, and is properly understood by parents, professionals, and the older students who wish to read and understand their results. We recognize that it is impossible to help a student unless this first step is achieved – an accurate diagnosis and in-depth understanding - which provides the key to the next critical step, the detailed action plan. This will involve both school and remedial support, especially if underlying processing problems are the cause of academic and social issues, affecting self-esteem.

How does remediation differ from tutoring?


For a student with an underlying processing disorder, tutoring is just a band-aid. It gives extra help in the subject matter of a particular course and is very useful for students who have missed a number of classes or who require extra help in understanding some concepts within a subject. It hides problems, but does not affect the fundamental underlying brain processes. It does not get at the mental skills or processing required for learning a subject. Educational remediation does. It is a highly focused form of training the brain aimed at overcoming specific problems found only in those with learning difficulties.

It's like a brain gym, it will build up the muscles of my brain!

As one of our young students remarked, “It’s like a brain gym, it will build up the muscles of my brain!” Remediation is a consistent, systematic, approach aimed at strengthening the underlying processing deficits that have created academic problems.

What about other programs?


Recent research shows that reading is a two-part process, “reading/decoding”, followed by “reading comprehension”. Within the realm of reading, visualization of the text has become all-important. Pictures have been added to textbooks to make reading easier because visual clues provide context. The neglect of the auditory component is critical because, as we now know, there is an important interrelationship between the auditory and visual components of reading. The fact that this connection has not been fully recognized in our approach tolearning to read, is at the heart of our illiteracy problem.

The “phonics”approach tries to emphasize the significance of the all-important first step –“reading decoding”, while the “whole-language” approach ignores it al together.The problem with the “phonics” approach is that it does not get at the decoding, it just emphasizes text. Both methods are focused on the visual component of reading, totally bypassing the auditory. Also, the variety of differences and approaches within the two theories have not moved away from forms of memorization and the repetition of writing letters, words, and text passages.

My child is dyslexic. Can dEcode® help when so many other programs have failed?


Yes. The dEcode® method is perfectly suitable for helping learners with dyslexia.

For math and reading, the dEcode® method is sensitive to each individual's needs to ensure minute step by step increments of awareness in developing the visual andauditory processing required for automaticity.

Is dEcode® suitable for adults?


Yes. This is because it gets at the underlying processing deficits affecting reading, further language development, as well as math.

Who is dEcode® for?


123 dEcode® and ABC dEcode® are for everyone. If you have any questions or comments about dEcode®, early literacy, or learning disabilities please contact us.

Is the ability to read tied in with an individual’s IQ?


No. There is no correlation between IQ and reading decoding. People with IQ's in the Superior range can have difficulty with decoding, just as people who are in the average range or below.

Does this mean that even with average or below intelligence, a person should be able to read?


Absolutely. But remember, we are talking about decoding. Reading comprehension is dependent upon oral comprehension once the student can decode.

Is there a similarity between a Math Learning Disability and reading difficulties?


There can be:

For example, students with reading/ decoding issues will have difficulty with signs of operations and word problems.

Short term memory problems can affect the retention of sounds and symbols in the same way that it can prevent the learning of basic computational skills.

Visual patterning problems, visual processing problems, and sequencing problems can affect retention and visualization of reading decoding as well as the learning of multi-step calculations in math and accuracy of computation.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me by email or by phone at any time. Learning disabilities can be very challenging to take on alone.