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By Phil Bartle, PhD

7. Do Not Aim for High Levels of Sophisticated Literacy:

To be highly literate, able to analyse complicated grammar, sure of spelling, able to appreciate fine poetry and prose, may be a nice end in itself. Surely if one or two participants indicate a desire to reach that level, you encourage them to find ways to do so. Your literacy programme, however, should not aim for such goals.

You are not teaching literacy for the sake of members becoming literate. You are helping a community to become more empowered by allowing its members to do practical things in and by reading and writing.

Perfectly correct spelling or grammar are not necessary. The ability to identify commonly used words that are written down, and the ability to make symbols on paper that can be read by others –that is the level of literacy towards which you strive.

Never criticise a spelling or grammar mistake. Never.

Limit your topics to those which are immediate, relevant and local. People of a fishing village do not need to know about Shakespeare or Proust. Cattle herders need not be able to quote Wordsworth or Browning. Slum dwellers do not need to know how to parse a sentence or decline a verb. Horticulturists need not be able to create new poetry or lyrics. Some individuals may go on to discover those joys (encourage them to do so), but not in your literacy programme.

Do not worry if your participants can not spell correctly or can not write with correct grammar. If you can understand what they intend when they write a word, then they have succeeded. Praise them for that.

Let them seek perfection elsewhere. "Do not ask a cow for eggs; do not ask a chicken for milk."

Notes on all of the above (long document)

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