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An Illustration of Physical Literacy

You have probably heard the terms literacy and literate. We often use these terms when we talk about reading and writing—but there are other ways to be literate (e.g., speech, media, music). Literacy can also involve being educated or cultured and includes having knowledge and competence. In that light, physical literacy is a way to become educated and knowledgeable about movement. A useful analogy of physical literacy is comparing it to effectively writing and presenting a speech:

Speech Literacy

  • You need to know how to spell, read and organize words to create grammatically correct sentences and paragraphs so that you can communicate your message effectively.
  • You need to think critically, make wise decisions, consult with others, and adjust your pace, tone, and volume according to your audience, intention and values.

Physical Literacy

  • You need basic movement skills, like running, jumping, and throwing, to interact with knowledge and motor abilities, like balance, coordination and strength, to perform more complex combinations of skills. You can then use these skills in many movement forms (dance, games, fitness training and activities of daily living) and settings (land, air, snow and water).
  • You need mental, emotional and social qualities such as understanding, motivation and being able to overcome barriers to participating enjoyably, creatively and cooperatively with others in a variety of settings.