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Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion
EXCERPTS FROM THE NATIONAL ADULT LITERACY SURVEY
Prose Literacy and Sample Items
Prose refers to any written text such as editorials, news stories, poems, and fiction, and can be broken down into two types: expository prose and narrative prose. Expository prose consists of printed information that defines, describes, or informs, such as newspaper stories or written instructions. Narrative prose tells a story. Prose varies in its length, density, and structure (e.g., use of section headings or topic sentences for paragraphs). Prose literacy tasks include locating all the information requested, integrating information from various parts of a passage of text, and writing new information related to the text.
Prose Literacy Levels
Adults included in level 1 were those who could succeed at level 1 tasks, but not at level 2 tasks, as well as those who could not succeed at level 1 tasks and those who were not literate enough in English to take the test at all. Adults in levels 2 through 4 were able to succeed at tasks at their proficiency level, but not at tasks for the next more difficult level. Adults in level 5 are able to succeed at level 5 tasks.
Prose Level 1. Level 1 prose literacy tasks required a person to read a short passage of text and locate a single piece of information that is identical to or synonymous with the information given in the question. If plausible but incorrect information was present in the text, it tended not to be located near the correct information.
Sample Prose Item (Level 1): Swimmer Article: Locate Fact with No Distractor
Task: Use the article “Swimmer completes Manhattan marathon” (See Figure C-3) to answer the following question.
Underline the sentence that tells what Ms. Chanin ate during the swim.
The answer is correct if respondent underlines, circles, or puts a mark next to the sentence beginning A Spokesman for the Swimmer, or underlines, circles, or puts a mark next to any part of the sentence that just lists the foods.
This level 1 task asks respondents to read a newspaper article about a marathon swimmer and to underline the sentence that tells what she ate