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Literacy Narrative ³Ohhh you can¶t read! You don¶t speak English!, a young girl yelled.´ At first I didn¶t know what she was saying because I didn¶t understand or speak English, but when looking back at that incident, I now realize that she was insulting me. This was what I experienced as a young student in kindergarten and first grade. After growing up in Russia and moving to the Charlotte, North Carolina at the age of five, I went through a few roadblocks in my first few years when learning to speak, read, and write in English. Through the help of the ESL program and different reading groups in elementary school, my literacy levels and language skills skyrocketed and I was able to improve my reading and writing abilities drastically. When living in Russia, I was always surrounded by the Russian language. My grandmother always read Russian stories to me every night before going to bed. However, I was never exposed to reading and writing Russian myself, since I was only a toddler. School didn¶t start until a child turned seven years old, so I wasn¶t able to fully learn reading and writing as many Russian children were. My parents were always busy working and my grandmother was constantly busy cleaning and cooking so I didn¶t have any one to help me learn to read and write in Russian at a young age. All I could do was speak the language, but only to the ability of a normal five year old. However, after my family decided to move to America, we knew that we were going to be entitled to learn a whole different language completely from scratch.
Avanesova 2 Coming to America in 1997, there was a huge language barrier between my family and the rest of the country. The only words in English we knew when first moving to America were ³hello,´ ³goodbye,´ and ³how are you?´ My family and I found it very difficult to communicate with people. Going to the grocery store was a tricky situation for us. We knew that everybody had to learn to pick up the language on their own. Luckily, my brother and I were enrolled in school in the upcoming August, so we would have teachers teach us. My parents, on the other hand, had to figure everything out themselves. Coming into kindergarten all alone, I was terrified. I didn¶t understand anyone around me and I knew they were going to force me to communicate with the rest of the classmates. I was automatically placed into the English as a Second Language (ESL) program because of my English disabilities. At first, I started off very slow. They had to teach me simple phrases, the alphabet, and how to count. Also while in my regular kindergarten class, we were learning to read as well. This gave me a better understanding of the English language because I was learning double the information. Gradually, as the year progressed, I was beginning to pick up the language. I was even speaking to the other kindergarten students and making friends. By the end of kindergarten I could read, at least to the ability of a normal five year old, and I was having conversations with my teachers and peers without many problems. I was excited that I have achieved so much in just a year in a whole different country. Soon enough, I was speeding my way through the English language and my speaking, reading, and writing abilities were just like an American student. My teachers were so proud of my growth that midway through first grade, they told me I no longer has to take ESL. I was now on my own to continue learning English and further improving my skills. In fourth grade, my reading teacher noticed my advanced reading skills and asked me to join the talent development (TD)
Avanesova 3 program. This would push me to read higher level books and participate in reading discussions. Even though I did not enjoy reading as much as most of the other students in the TD program did, I knew it would be a great opportunity for me, so I joined. I remember my teacher always saying ³Now, don¶t forget to read tonight and write a summary for what you read,´ almost every day. Reading every night and writing a summary helped me to grasp a better understanding different vocabulary, advance my reading skills, and help me learn to write better. But even though I was moving quickly in my language and literacy skills, my parents weren¶t. They were still having problems picking up the language. I guess it¶s true when people say ³it¶s harder to learn a new language the older you get.´ Since I started learning English at a young age, I grasped the concept quickly, but my parents weren¶t able to do that. When a telemarketer always called our house, my parents would always give my brother or I the phone so we would speak to them. They were scared to say something wrong or go completely blank when the telemarketer would ask them a question. I remember one time we got a phone call and my mom answered. As soon as the lady on the other line spoke, my mom froze and threw the phone at me so I would talk to them. At least my parents had my brother and I talk to other people just in case my parents didn¶t understand. With the help of the ESL program and the TD program in elementary school, I was able to improve my language abilities, as well as learn to read and write. Basically, the teachers in those two programs were my sponsors of literacy. Without those programs in elementary school, I believe it would have been harder for me to learn English further down. If I wasn¶t in the ESL program, then I would have been behind in my other classes. Regular teachers would have continued with their normal lesson plans and not have stopped and waited for me to catch up just because I didn¶t understand. Also, the TD program allowed me to improve my skills even further.
Avanesova 4 It challenged my literacy skills and it was just what I needed to move forward in my literacy skills. Growing up, I had a great experience with literacy and when looking back I can only remember positive thoughts about me reading and writing as a child.