Elements of Literacy, The

Julie Lindquist / David Seitz  
Total pages
November 2008
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This rhetoric begins with the question "What is Literacy?" and invites students to think and write about literacy as a field of study.  


The study of how people become literate, the role of literacy in society, and what forms literacy takes is important in many disciplines such as English, Rhetoric, Education, Sociology, and Anthropology.  In The Elements of Literacy, students are specifically asked to consider five aspects or "sites" of literacy -- the mind (cognitive studies), culture (doing ethnographic research), class (the effects of social class on literacy practices), the workplace, and digital/multimodal literacies.  As part of the Elements Series, this brief rhetoric offers substantial value at an affordable price.


  • Popular culture examples are used throughout the book to illustrate important concepts and the different aspects of literacy that each chapter focuses on.  These balance the use of academic terms and scholarly examples throughout the book.
  • "Before You Read" assignments open each chapter
  • "Focus point" boxes include questions that invite students to reflect on complex ideas in each chapter.
  • Short activity assignments appear within chapters to help student explore particular questions and concepts covered in the chapter.
  • Longer "Project" assignments conclude each chapter
  • Key terms and concepts are called out in brief "definition boxes" throughout the chapters.
  • Detailed "Guidelines for Literacy Projects" are included as an Appendix at the end of the book.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction   

How Does Literacy Mean?

Literacy Then, Literacy Now: Changing Meanings of Literacy

Sites of Literacy: How This Book is Organized

Activities and Projects

For Further Reading


2 Literacy and Mind 

Kids These Days: Literacy and the End of Dialogue

Letters, Thought, and Civilization

Literacy and the “Great Divide”

Literacy, Literacies, and Schooling: The Case of the Vai

Projects and Activities

For Further Reading


3 Literacy and Culture 

Into the Field: Ethnographic Research on Literacy

Literacy in Action: Understanding a Literacy Event in Trackton

Talkin' Story: Texts in Literacy Events

Wired Reading, Writing and Talking: Redefining the Literacy Event

Who's Got the Power?: Analyzing Power Dynamics in Literacy Events

Seeing Literacy in Five Dimensions

What Literacy is Good For: Uses and Applications

Projects and Activities

For Further Reading


4 Literacy and Class 

The Work of Literacy  

Consuming Literacy, Cashing In (On) Culture

Cost of Literacy: Language and Class Identity

Going Places: Mobility and the American Dream

Projects and Activities

For Further Reading


5 Literacy and Work 

A Tale of Two Workplaces

Literacy Sponsorship   

What Changed in Our Economy and Ways of Doing Business?

Implications for Work and Literacy in the Knowledge Economy

Power and Social Dynamics of Literacy Teamwork in the Knowledge Economy

Tensions of Workplace Literacy Today: Opportunities and Accountability

Projects and Activities

For Further Reading


6 Literacy and Technology

Crisis and Opportunity

Stages of Literacy Technologies

From Authorship to Network   

Text as Database, Writing as Remix

The Politics of Writing as Design

One Final Scenario and Activity

Projects and Activities

For Further Reading



Appendix: Guidelines for Literacy Projects