Cover image for Literacy in America : historic journey and contemporary solutions
Literacy in America : historic journey and contemporary solutions
Gordon, Edward E.
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Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2003.
Physical Description:
xxi, 329 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
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Material Type
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LC151 .G68 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This book is the first comprehensive history of how the American people achieved varying degrees of literacy from early colonial times to the modern era. The authors demonstrate that literacy education is not synonymous with schooling. By focusing on people rather than statistics, including literacy among women and minority groups, they explore the literacy agents, methods, and materials used at different times and places throughout the history of the country.

The authors define literacy as the degree of interaction with written text that enables individuals to be productive members of their societies. Family literacy is essential to awakening the personal responsibility and motivation necessary for children to develop a love of reading. This effort requires more intensive collaboration procedures between the home and the school, some of which are detailed here. Based largely on primary materials, this historical survey reveals important lessons from the past that can be applied to achieve higher levels of 21st- century literacy.

Author Notes

EDWARD E. GORDON is President of the Imperial Consulting Corporation. He has also taught for 20 years at three Chicago-area universities: DePaul, Loyola, and Northwestern. He is the author of many articles and 12 other books, including Closing the Literacy Gap (1991), Futurework (1994), Enhancing Learning (1998), and Skills Wars (2000).

ELAINE H. GORDON is the Vice-President for Research of the Imperial Consulting Corporation. She is the co-author with Edward E. Gordon of Centuries of Tutoring: A History of Alternative Education in Western Europe and America (1990).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This well-researched history of literacy in the US extends from Colonial New England to the 21st century. However, most of the essays examine literacy in Colonial America and the 19th century. The authors note that the definition of literacy has changed over the centuries, as American life has grown more complex. Literacy is "the degree of interaction with written text that enables a person to be a functioning, contributing member of the society in which that person lives and works." At one time just being able to write one's name and read the Bible was sufficient to being called literate, but no more. The authors also examine the shift in responsibility for literacy from the family in the Colonial period to the schools today and suggest that parents need to get more involved in their children's literacy education. Although the book includes chapters about some marginalized groups like American Indians and African Americans, no chapter, except for a brief discussion of the Middle Colonies, discusses immigrant groups whose struggle toward literacy must have been somewhat different from that of native English speakers. This is a flaw in an otherwise scholarly historical treatment of a critically important and contemporary topic. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels. E. L. Ihle James Madison University

Table of Contents

ForewordGerald Gutek
Introduction Literacy and Religion in Colonial America (1620-1789)
A Light in the Forest: Colonial New England From "Dukes" to "Friends"
Literacy in the Middle Atlantic Colonies "Old Field Schools" and Tidewater
Tutors: The Southern Colonies Literacy in the Young Republic (1790-1860)
Literacy in Transition: The Northeast "Lay the Cornerstone More Firmly"
The Antebellum South Literacy and the Frontier Experience (1790-1900)
"Jack of All Trades, Master of Some"
Pioneer Educators of the Midwest "An Eternity Job"
Riding the Literacy Circuit on the Western Frontier Literacy
Outside the Mainstream (1620-1900) Literacy as a Mission: Native
Americans Contraband Education: The Struggle for Afro-American
Literacy Literacy in the Modern Age (1870- ) Literacy for Everyone?
Conclusion: The Lessons of Literacy