This introductory chapter was designed to orient you to ways to define and think about literacy, as well as familiarize you with the format and purposes of this textbook. Literacy is complex and requires a great deal of knowledge to appreciate and a great deal of effort to teach. Included in this chapter was a discussion of literacy in terms of its scope—that it is not limited to reading and writing but encompasses a diverse set of modalities—such as listening, speaking, viewing, and performing, as well as factors related to sociocultural and digital influences. Because research continues to provide insights into some of the most enduring questions in the field, learning how to teach literacy is somewhat of a moving target. It takes high levels of knowledge, skill, and effort to teach children and adolescents literacy, while continuing to stay informed of research findings that may help improve your practice.

Keep in mind that the snapshot of literacy represented in this textbook does not include your experiences, so there are many things left for you to learn. Also absent from this textbook are the many answers to important literacy questions that will be generated by future research in the coming decades. What this means is that everyone with an interest in literacy must be prepared for lifelong study, not only of what literacy is today, but also what literacy will become.