Levels of literacy really comes down to level of understanding. What extent should a person understand a text? What type of text is being considered? For example, a second grader is able to read aloud and is able to repeat the plot into his or her own words, would be considered literate. To further the example, a 11 grader with the exact level of skills as the second grader would be considered functioning illiterate. A functioning illiterate is a person who can read and write, but with out much depth or complex understanding. They can explain that a novel takes place with characters and in a setting (maybe even in great detail), but cannot explain or discuss what the novel is about beyond that. So where the second grader can explain what is going going on in the Dr. Seuss book, the 11 grader should be able to explain how Dr. Seuss is making a social commentary.
There are four levels of literacy assigned by professionals in the field. The first level would be someone who is able to read a text aloud and basically understand what is happening. The second level is someone who can put multiple paragraphs together and most of the time is able to understand what the text is saying, like if it is telling them directions of some sort. The third level is what most high school educated (not counting disabilities) people are. They can read the text for understanding, but cannot fully pull out complex themes, ideas, or understanding of a text. They would get the main idea of the text, but would not be able to explain the subtleties of a poem. The most advanced would be level four. These people not only are able to understand the text, but are able to apply and discuss the underlying meaning of a text. They would be able to find the abstract idea within a work of literature. People in group one and low group two would be considered functionally illiterate.
Being functionally illiterate is like being able to see, but understanding any meaning behind the image. Like seeing a dead relative you have never met and not understanding that you are related to that person. This happens to be the greatest literacy problem in the developed world. Since these people can pass basic reading test, they a lot of time get put into society without the necessary skills needed to succeed. There is about 15% of people in the United States who cannot read well enough to comprehend a McDonald’s job application.One can define illiteracy this way: An adult person not being able to understand a simple text so that they cannot use the information is contains.