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Alyson Hellenack
Ms. Grant
UWRT 1101
September 8
th
, 2014
My Literacy and My Culture: Three Vignettes
During moments of my life I was taught how to read a book or write a sentence. As my
level of education advanced my literacy advanced as well. I was surrounded by a community that
wanted to educate me with the knowledge I know today. If my community did not accept
educating kids I would not be able to read and write at the level I am today, or not at all. Literacy
has come into my life through many different resources like: books, educational TV shows, and
teachers and most importantly my parents. I did not have a rough childhood, I did not speak a
different language or even need to fit into a society like Malcom X, I just read to read. I wanted
to learn for myself what this big thing was about reading and writing. I knew that if I learned
how to read I could accomplish so much.
My family was your average American family. A middle class living in a little suburb
town. There was nothing truly different about our family than others, but one of the most
important things that mattered to us was education. My earliest memories about reading and
writing started when I was only a little girl of two years old. My mom was a kindergarten teacher
at the time, so my exposure to books started at a very young age. I owned a lot of books from
Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss to Franklin the Turtle books by Paulette
Bourgeois. Books were sort of an obsession for me at that age. My mom or dad would always
read me several stories every night before I went to bed. I can remember listening to them so
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intently and both of them always making the words and pictures seem so real and interesting to
me. When they were not able to read to me during the day because of work, I started to read
books by myself. Even though I was too young to understand what was really going on in the
story at times, I would look at the pictures and formulate my own story in my head. Of course I
didnt know how to read, but using what I saw my mom and dad do I would read my books to
myself and to anyone who would listen, even if it meant that I would make up the words to the
pictures. I could form my own stories by also giving the characters different voices and motions
for each word too. This helped me remember words more clearly by hearing the word and
remembering the voice or motion I used. Along with reading at home, my mom would usually
take me to story time at the library each week for a different atmosphere than reading at home
and signed me up for preschool at three years old. Both places encouraged me and continued to
add to the development of my literacy.
Another huge aspect of my literacy history was the TV. Whenever I turned on the TV it
was to watch the PBS kids educational learning channel. I would watch shows like Sesame
Street, Arthur, Curious George, and Barney. I actually would watch them so intently that I could
repeat some of the words that were taught in the show. I developed letter and sound recognition
from the different learning activities that were presented on the show. I remember one of the first
words I could write was dog. Elmo on Sesame Street would talk about different types of dogs
and he would go lets spell dog. D-O-G. Now you try! I slowly tried to attempt to repeat the
letters over and over again. They would show the word multiple times on the TV screen so I
scrambled to get a piece of paper and a crayon and attempted to write the word dog on my paper
numerous times. My literacy soon became higher with all the books I read and educational shows
that I was prepared to start elementary school.
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Throughout elementary school I continued to enjoy reading. I would always read at
school during whatever free time I had. I loved reading novels, magazines, newspapers and
really anything that had words on it. During this time, I started reading the series Junie B. Jones
by Barbara Parks. I grabbed onto these books like my life depended on them. You could always
find me in my reading corner with my face glues to a Junie B. Jones book. I would finish a book
in just a couple of days. As I continued to read my vocabulary went up, but I started to notice
that my fluency was not as good as the other kids in my classes. It discouraged me that all the
other kids seemed to read faster when they read out loud during class or by themselves. I thought
I was a fast reader but then I realized not so much. I found this particularly hard and stressful
when EOG testing came into my life in the third grade. I felt this was a big hurdle because I felt
tons of pressure to read faster so I would not be the last one in the class to finish the test and hold
up all the other kids. Unfortunately, I would usually end up being one of the last kids to finish
the reading section of the EOG. I also was nervous to read out loud during class, since my speech
was shaky. It was so easy for me to read a story in my head, that I did not understand what was
so hard about reading out loud to the class. Luckily I had a wonderfully encouraging third grade
teacher and assistant teacher who helped me bring up my self-confidence. Once I realized that I
was stressing myself out and that in order to do well on the EOG tests I had to overcome the
pressure of being last and do what was best for me I started feeling better about how I read.
People usually think just school, teachers, and family affect your literacy, but actually
there are non-academic experiences that affect literacy too, especially in my life. A big part of
my life has been dance. Ive been dancing since I was three years old and have always
thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. Youre probably wondering what does dance have to do with
literacy?, but without it I wouldnt have had the work ethic to achieve my reading and writing
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goals. Even at age three I worked extremely hard at dance because I really wanted to be good at
literacy growing more and more every day. It pushed me to be good at something and made me
want to know more about dance. Dance made me want to work hard to be the best I could be to
further my dance technique.
When eighth grade through ninth grade came along I lost interest in reading. I had given
up on reading books and I wasnt passionate about furthering my reading anymore. My reading
level started to decrease because I didnt have as strong of a vocabulary as the other students in
my grade. I was taking dance during this time and I remembered how much I actually loved
reading. I had pushed myself away from something I enjoyed and loved to do with something
else I loved to do. This is where my work ethic to increase my literacy fell into place. Without
dance I would have never learned to push myself to want to know more and to work hard to a
achieve something. Taking these lessons from dance throughout my life I would read and read
because I wanted to know more about my literacy and wanted to perfect it. My work ethic
knowledge from dance increased my literacy so I could work hard and learn more about how to
read and write.
When I look back at my literacy history, I consider myself to be very fortunate. The
opportunities I provided by my literacy sponsors, like my teachers and family, have turned me
into a knowledgeable student who knows how to read and write. I was privileged to be enrolled
in my public school that was dedicated to helping me learn to read and write. I was surrounded
by a group of people and a wonderful community who truly dedicated there time to help me and
everyone else learn new things. My determination to read my Dr. Seuss, Franklin the Turtle, and
Junie B. Jones books kept me pushing myself forward with my learning process, and my
curiosity of different books grew more. As I start my college career more opportunities will open
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up to me to increase my literacy and I will meet so many more people that will help my literacy
journey grow more over the course of my four years at the University of North Carolina,
Charlotte.