Beyond the School Doors: The Literacy Needs of Job Seekers Served by the U.S. Department of Labor

Kirsch, Irwin S., Ann Jungeblut, and Anne Campbell. 1992. Beyond the School Doors: The Literacy Needs of Job Seekers Served by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The authors write for the U.S. Department of Labor and Princeton Educational Testing Service, reporting on how adults respond to three types of literacy tasks often required in jobs: prose literacy (articles, stories), document literacy (job applications, graphs, maps), and quantitative literacy (invoices, loan advertisements). In the report’s section on document literacy, the authors point out that adults spend more time reading and working with documents (tables, forms, schedules, charts) than they spend on other reading materials. Provides reasons (relevant then and now) why document and quantitative literacy is important for success in a career and in life. People must be able to understand where on the document to find various types of information, how to avoid being misled by inaccurate or confusing documents, and be able to assess how relevant a document is for their needs. The gist of this report is in line with the idea that students should be spending more time reading informational texts in the K-12 curriculum. The authors create five levels of complexity or difficulty for tasks that require use of documents: the easiest level includes locating or entering literal information, the second easiest level requires making inferences or integrate information, and as the levels increase, the task requires making more inferences or navigating more complex displays.

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