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Critical Literacy

In these ‘post-truth’ days we are constantly exposed to a huge variety of print and multimodal texts from newspapers to the Internet, from advertisements and editorials to facebook posts and twitter tweets. We need to be able to understand what is fake and what is credible, who is creating these texts and why and how they are shaping our world views as individuals and how they are constructing the norms of our society. Critical literacy moves beyond comprehension of a text at surface level to a deeper analysis of how the text is influencing us. It involves higher order thinking and literacy skills.

Where critical thinking involves the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement, critical literacy is the ability to read texts and understand how language is used, particularly to construct power relationships. Critical literacy engages readers in identifying how societal issues and institutions such as family, poverty, education, environment, consumerism and equity are represented and reinforced in texts through the use of positioning language and stereotypes.

Critical thinking skills, such as understanding logical connections between ideas, identifying the relevance and importance of ideas, evaluating arguments, detecting inconsistencies and mistakes in reasoning, and reflecting on the justification of one's own beliefs and values, are important in critical literacy. However, critical literacy is the ability to use literacy skills to investigate the relationship between language and power; to analyse all kinds of texts to understand how power relations are constructed through language and to consider how language can be used to encourage social justice.

Critical literacy engages students in asking questions such as how a text is influencing me and why, who benefits and who is disadvantaged, and how the language is used to do that. The nuances of vocabulary, grammar and text type choice are analysed for their influence and students are encouraged to challenge the world view and stereotypes presented in the text. These are essential 21st century life skills. 

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