How literacy in its fundamental sense is central to scientific literacy


  • The development of this paper was supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 410-99-0197 and 410-96-0053, and by a grant from the National Centres of Excellence in Language and Literacy Development (CLLRNET).


This paper draws upon a distinction between fundamental and derived senses of literacy to show that conceptions of scientific literacy attend to the derived sense but tend to neglect the fundamental sense. In doing so, they fail to address a central component of scientific literacy. A notion of literacy in its fundamental sense is elaborated and contrasted to a simple view of reading and writing that still has much influence on literacy instruction in schools and, we believe, is widely assumed in science education. We make suggestions about how scientific literacy would be viewed differently if the fundamental sense of literacy were taken seriously and explore some educational implications of attending to literacy in its fundamental sense when teaching science. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed87:224–240, 2003; Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI 10.1002/sce.10066