Reading Instructions for Using Commercial Medicines

Thomas Owen Eisemon, Jeanne Ratzlaff, Vimla L. Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Reading product labels is a common and important use of literacy and numeracy skills in daily life. Instructions for commercial oral-rehydration-therapy salt solutions were examined. The products are widely available in rural Kenya, where they are purchased for alleviating the symptoms of life-threatening diarrheal dehydration. Many features of these texts do not facilitate comprehension. Information about preparation, dosage, administration, storage, and precautions is difficult to locate, few discourse conventions are used to enable readers to efficiently process information, and much tacit knowledge is presumed—including knowledge of English even when a Kiswahili translation is provided. Numeracy tasks associated with compliance with the treatment regime cannot be easily performed with school-learned mathematical algorithms. Measuring and teaching functional literacy and numeracy skills necessitates a better understanding of the kinds of texts that readers will encounter and analyzing the comprehension and problem-solving skills they require.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-90
Number of pages15
JournalThe ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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