Literacy Terminology

ELINET analytic glossary of the initial teaching and learning of literacy

This glossary was produced by Greg Brooks and Maxine Burton under a sub-contract to FELA, the Federation of European Literacy Associations. It is in two parts:

- An alphabetic list of just over 300 terms, ranging from ‘accent’ to ‘young fluent reader’; most items are in English, but with a few in Czech, French, German and Greek. In many places there are cross-references to the other part, the

- Analytic section. This comprises eight essays on key ideas in the field, namely Concepts of literacy, First steps (in literacy learning), Dual-route theory, Stage theories, Linguistics for literacy teachers, Regularity and consistency, Dyslexia, and Proficiency levels and scales.

The glossary as a whole is intended to clarify the meanings of a number of key terms in initial literacy teaching, and to be useful to all those in Europe and beyond who have a professional interest in initial literacy teaching, and wish to explore the relationships between the nature of different languages and their orthographies on the one hand, and the methods used to teach literacy in them on the other. It is meant to apply to all the official languages of the European Union and its associated and candidate states, and therefore covers the Greek alphabet and languages written in Cyrillic and Roman scripts. Since ELINET’s remit concerns literacy at all stages of life, the glossary is intended to cover the initial teaching and learning of literacy not just to children, but also to adults.

Here you find the Glossary:

ELINET analytic glossary of the Initial teaching and learning of literacy


Adult Terminology

The goal of the ELINET guiding principles for the use of terminology in adult literacy is to draw attention to the importance of the linguistic choices we make when describing and referring to adults who may have literacy needs or goals. Our use of language can have a significant impact in shaping impressions of the needs and capabilities of adult literacy learners. The seven guiding principles have been written to inform choices of language when writing or speaking about adult literacy in our advocacy, research and practice.

Guiding principles

We will aim for terminology which:

  • provides precision appropriate to communicative purpose
  • communicates transparently and simply, as appropriate to audience, purpose and context
  • is respectful
  • is positive; that is, where possible avoids contributing to a deficit model
  • recognises that “people are not at levels, skills are”
  • recognises that ‘a beginner reader [or writer] is not a beginner thinker’
  • is appropriate to linguistic and cultural context, as well as to audience and purpose

We have prepared a Rationale, in English, for the ELINET guiding principles for the use of terminology in adult literacy exploring the need for such principles and the thinking behind the particular ones we have chosen. We have also made available translations of the ELINET guiding principles for the use of terminology in adult literacy in several languages.

ELINET Guiding principles for the Use of Terminology in Adult Literacy


ELINET Guidelines on Terminology














We hope that colleagues will use the Guiding principles to inform discussions about terminology use in their own languages or in an international context and we would be very interested to hear any experiences of using the guiding principles in that way.