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Monique Kartchner

Yi-Ping Fu, M.A.


LRC 312c: Early Language Acquisition and Literacy Development
Community Literacy Walk Reflection
A childs identity and ultimate maturity are develop[ed] under the influence of language,
culture, race, class, gender, family values, patterns of domestic organization, and political, social,
and religious ideology" (Owocki and Goodman 18). Before conducting our literacy walk I read
Kidwatching: Documenting Childrens Literacy Development written by Gretchen Owocki and
Yetta Goodman, and the article Talking the walk: Children reading urban environmental print
written by Orellana and Hernandez which discussed how there are various literacies that make
up our students local neighborhood and communities and how the experiences that children
have in relation to the evident literacies contribute and effect their language and literacy
development. Reading about the experiences that Orellana and Hernandez had when they took
some students on a literacy walk around their neighborhood and the knowledge they gained from
these students connection to neighborhood literacies contributed to my excitement to be
involved in our own class community literacy walk.
We began our jaunt down the sidewalk adjacent to the gate in the fence that surrounds
Ocotillo. The huge mural on the opposite wall caught my attention. I began taking pictures but
soon realized that it was essential to cross the barrier of the road and get closer to the wall to take
more clear and detailed pictures. The first picture on the mural that my eyes were drawn to was
the painting of the small building with the large sign beside it reading Circle K.




This picture most likely represented the Circle K down the street from the school that many of
the children pass by on their way to school. The sign would be seen by a child riding in the car
but may not be identified as a Circle K store, but rather would locate the area where the childs
care taker gets gas. This first identified sign led to more predictions and conclusions about the
literacy children and adults are exposed to as they walk or drive to Ocotillo and the community
resources available.
The mural had a sign placed on the top of the wall that stated WARNING: KEEP OUT!-
Hazardous Voltage Inside. Can shock and burn or cause death. The sign was printed in both
Spanish and English accommodating both Spanish and English speakers, however, the sign was
too high for a child to be able to see or read WARNING.





The pictures of the traditionally dressed Native American and a happy young Hispanic cowboy
were welcoming and culturally appropriate.






Conversely, the fact that the danger sign was placed beyond a childs or an un-observant adults
view was concerning when considering a childs safety. The only evidence of a warning to
children to not get too close to the wall was the painting of the electric wires that wrapped
around the street and other pictures on the mural. However, as I looked at the mural in more of
its entirety I saw that the painting of the wire ultimately showed that it was sparking and blowing
up.






I concluded that this mural could represent the cultures that are typical of this community and the
fact that the overlapping and mixing of cultures and people are ultimately dangerous, or the
electric wire could symbolize the link the community members have to one another. I was able to
learn about the artwork and symbols presented on the wall, but I would not know if the mural
had any importance in a childs life unless I were walking with them. However, I do know that a
child from Ocotillo would be exposed to this mural as she/he walks or rides with her/his family
to school because of its greatness in size.
During the Literacy walk I came across many plastic signs that stated Beware of Dog,
No Parking with a large P crossed out, a Stop When Children in Crosswalk, and two Drug
Free/ Gun Free signs. I saw that some of the signs were at childrens eye level or out of their
site and either had a picture symbol accompanied with words or solely just words. The Beware
of Dog Sign and the Stop When Children in Crosswalk were at a childs eye level whereas
the No Parking sign, the Drug Free/Gun Free sign, and the street sign Leghorn Dr. were not.








The signs that were placed around the school to protect the children from being hurt or bringing
harmful items into school were placed to provide a safe area around the school, but it was
questionable as to why the signs were too high for children to see. The neighborhood we walked
through was made up of rented apartments and fairly small older homes. I learned that the
neighborhood surrounding the school was more run down and unkempt than I had noticed during
my previous drives through the community. This led me to believe that students and teachers
who walk to and/or from Ocotillo would also learn and be exposed to more literacies that were
lower to the ground in comparison to parents who drive their children to school and would more
likely notice the signs that were taller and more in a car passengers view. Reflecting on the signs
that were present in the community led me to conclude that the majority of the signs were
directed towards adults rather than being child friendly and were predominantly focused on
negative concepts like warnings. A child looking at these signs each day could readily perceive
that the world is a dangerous place with many restrictions and barriers.
During our literacy walk I saw spray-painted graffiti on electric boxes, trash cans, and on
other public signs.







I would consider graffiti to be a non-conventional sign that is of great importance to families
that make up the neighborhoods around Ocotillo. Owocki and Goodman stated that children
who are aware of print know that it is something significant and worth paying attention to (p.
28). The many different symbols led me to question the amount of gang activity in the area and
whether or not parents would feel comfortable with their child walking to and from school. The
letters and signs written on different public surfaces would encourage students and parents to
understand the gang signs so that they would have the ability to recognize these signs in order to
stay safe. However, with the consideration that some of the students siblings may be involved in
gangs or tagging would lead these children to see the signs as something exciting, artistic, or
symbols of maturity. The graffiti symbols make up the childs literacy environment and the
familys neighborhood which would lead to the children having to learn what the letter and color
representations meant. Through being able to recognize and determine different letter and color
symbols children would understand that letters make meaning.
Along with the graffiti there was a lot of litter including a visible large plastic coke
bottle, a cigarette package, and McDonalds fries container. The children would most likely be
able to recognize these three containers, would be able to explain what each package was for,
and would associate them with food or adults who smoke.




This connection would be influenced by their home and community and would impact their
language and literacy development by reinforcing the connection of corporations to everyday
food items. However, the act of community members throwing trash on their property would
communicate that taking care of the nature and environment in the neighborhood is not that
important.
As I made my way back to our classroom I was surprised that I had not previously
noticed the alphabet and shape symbols on the child sized table at the entrance of the gate and
the mural that covered the brick wall by the outside play area.















Through close examination of the childrens neighborhood I was more in-tune to the symbols
and literacy representations at the school. The difference between the schools development of
artistic messages and the communitys was that I was able to easily see what the school was
endeavoring to communicate through their mural. The mural had children with both lighter and
darker skin and different shades of dark hair. One of the children in the picture was in a
wheelchair and seemed to be happily playing with the other children. The picture of a red boy
with a peace symbol on his arm and a white boy both holding onto a rope that connected to a
bubble that said Peace Builders most explicitly communicated that the schools goal was to
develop peace and caring between and for all children.
Though I learned about the childrens community and neighborhood throughout our
literacy walk and the great amount of literacy that was present in the environment and familys
neighborhood, I would not be able to understand the complexity of the literacies unless I had the
opportunity to learn through students vocalization the signs and symbols that connect to their
personal experiences as explained in the article by Orellana and Hernandez. The many signs that
I identified truly make up the childrens literacy environment and influence their language and
literacy development. However, the other literacy resources young children and their families are
exposed to during their day-to-day experiences also impact their lives and language
development. One non-conventional sign was the great amount of iron fences surrounding not
only their school but houses and businesses, and even a playground which may communicate
that it is a dangerous neighborhood that protects people and business from outside dangers with
fences and gates. The playground mentioned above was directly in front of an apartment
complex where families had easy access to a safe play area. The placement of the playground led
me to conclude that the community does encourage childrens play and involvement.








The communitys support of childrens play leads to children having the opportunity to use
communication skills and socialize with friends freely which contributes to literacy development
because children will begin to see the correspondence between speech and written
language(p.30).
I think that the many community literacies that I recognized during my walk through
Ocotillos neighborhood could be used and connected to classroom curriculum and projects, for
example, in different forms of evaluation. First I would recognize that there is print in the local
environment like the WARNING sign in both Spanish and English. Presenting signs like this or
the symbol of the Circle K, I can see my students hypotheses about what the symbols mean and
why, along with letter-sound relationships. As a kidwatcher I would also perform informal
evaluations of my students print awareness through setting up informal classroom spaces where
a child can engage in a writing activity that I can observe. I can also plan instruction to determine
if a child knows print through evidence that they are aware of what they are writing, and finally
if the childs writing produces something unexpected or unconventional this also tell[s] about
the childs knowledge(p.31).
Through continuing my research and interest in students neighborhood environments I
will be able to better understand the "identities [that] guide children's behaviors, and therefore
their development, by shaping their motivations, goals, purposes, attitude, values, and ways of
interacting with print" (Owocki and Goodman 19). As I grow to become more aware of these
ideas I will be able to better provide opportunities to help my students language and literacy
development.