You are on page 1of 6

Withrow 1

Courtney Withrow ENG 110 Professor Franklin 8 November 2012 The Importance of My Personal Literacy I learned to read at school, for the most part. I learned a few shorter words like love and mommy at daycare first. I could write my name (mostly) by the time I got to kindergarten. I learned the whole alphabet in kindergarten and Im pretty sure I was reading tiny chapter books by first grade. I always really like reading when I was younger. My school had an Accelerated Reader program (AR) to encourage kids to read books for points. The points sometimes earned you prizes, but most of the time there was just a minimum required number of points in order to pass Reading. I remember the very first AR book I read (and probably the longest book I had ever read to that point) was a biography of Harry Houdini. When I took the test on the book, I only got about two-thirds of the points, because I had trouble remembering everything (it covered his whole life!). After that, I always read chapter books that were a part of a series, and they were usually about girls my age (preferably ones with red hair, like me). I never had a problem getting my AR points as I got older, I really loved reading. However when I got to high school, I had less time for recreational reading because I had so much homework. I mostly read in the summer. I stopped reading a lot of the series that I had started, because at a certain point I just outgrew them. I liked reading romantic historical novels for a while too, but they were all Young Adult novels, and I got tired of those as well. The only YA novels I can think of that I will never really grow out of are Harry Potter. After Harry Potter, I started reading classics. My logic was that I wouldnt outgrow them, because generations of people had enjoyed them before. Theres a reason they are considered classics. The first classic books I read were Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. To this day The Catcher in the Rye remains my favorite book.

Withrow 2

I cant remember ever being told I wasnt allowed to read something. I never had a desire to read anything inappropriate, and I didnt even know those kinds of books existed when I was younger. As far as banning a book, there is one particular instance I remember: my seventh grade teacher (who was a Dominican Sister in the Order of Preachers) took AR points away from us if we read The Golden Compass in class. She believed it was strongly antiVatican, and since we attended a Catholic school, she did not think it was acceptable for us to read that book. There are no other specific books that I was discouraged from reading. However, when my dad would take me to the bookstore he would always make me buy longer novels, because he didnt want to spend that much money on a small, one hundred to two hundred page book; he also thought they wouldnt be as challenging for me. So technically I was banned from reading shorter books. When I first learned to write, I really liked it. I always tried to keep a journal, but it never worked out because I would stop journaling regularly in favor of another hobby. When I got to high school, I was even more unmotivated to journal. I figured, if I had spare time to write stuff down, then I had spare time to read recreational books, and would have much rather read books than write in my journal. My writing habits developed as a result of what I was reading. Reading so many books had a significant impact on my vocabulary. Also, my language and writing style began to reflect what I was reading. I was reading edited and published works of fiction by professional authors, as opposed to comic books or magazines. The way I wrote reflected this style more than if I had read comic books or magazines. My teachers were the ones that primarily encouraged me to write when I first learned how. But their encouragement came through assignments. The idea of assigned writing has always seemed stressful to me. Turning in papers or essays, and particularly essays tests, always made

Withrow 3

me uneasy. I think it was because there was a lot more at stake in writing something than just completing a worksheet or set of problems. Because writing stressed me out so much at school, my overall interest in it decreased. I still liked it, but my interest in it remained marginal at best. It wasnt until I started this class that I realized how valuable writing can be to me. I sue it much more often and I enjoy it a lot more too. Reading Deborahs Brandts piece, Sponsors of Literacy, I learned what a literacy sponsor is. Anyone who contributes to how we learn to read or write is considered a literacy sponsor. These could be our parents, elementary school teachers, and or anyone who directs the way we comprehend reading or the way that we write. (Brandt 334). Typically, a literacy sponsor is more educated than we are, and they have a motivation for sponsoring us. She gave an example of a woman who became more literate by learning how business operates, and her boss was her sponsor. Her literacy revolved around finance and budgeting, which she soon applied to her life outside of the office. In this example, the literacy sponsor is not necessarily someone who taught her how to read, but someone who shaped how information was consumed and presented. Literacy sponsors in this sense have always been teachers for me. The people who have taught me how to think and write in a certain way were all educators. In the example Brandt gives, the literacy sponsor stands to gain from guiding his employee a certain way he will have a more efficient worker who is more skilled for the job. But teachers do not have motivation like this when they take on the role of literacy sponsor. Educators try to teach their students how to be critical thinkers and how to read analytically, in a more general sense. They are always trying to prepare them for a higher level of reading and writing. Elementary school teachers prepare students for middle school, middle school teachers for high school, high school teachers for

Withrow 4

college, and college professors try to tailor the thinking skills students have to their chosen field of study. Literacy sponsors like these are the ones I have primarily come in contact with. That does not, however, mean that they have been the only ones. My parents have obviously tried to guide my thinking in a certain direction, mostly in accordance with school but sometimes in disagreement. For instance, my English classes taught me for a long time that if my paragraph does not have five sentences, then it does not count as a paragraph and my grade consequently suffers. My father wholeheartedly disagreed with this idea, and never failed to tell me so when he proofread my papers. My father also tried to encourage me to be more creative, and try to work outside the parameters of the assignment, in order to make a better paper. His promotion of creativity would often clash with the rigid structure with which I was supposed to write. But this clash seemed to end in the last few years of high school, when the structure was enforced less because the teachers knew the application of structure would be automatic. It occurs to me now that my teachers were trying to teach me how to write correctly, and my dad was trying to teach me how to write something interesting. Overall, I think I learned more about how to structure an essay than how to make it interesting. I also feel that attending private schools for thirteen years instead of public had an effect on my literacy development. Im not sure I can make a fair comparison, because I have only ever been to private school, but I would like to think that my literacy development was a little more challenging than those that attended public school. I also think this has made my literacy experience more of a positive one. The reading is challenging, and teachers not only want students to read and understand, but to appreciate the reading as well. The idea was to present students with a variety of things to read, so that hopefully they found something they liked and wanted to read more of it. In this way, teachers tried to make students take charge of their own

Withrow 5

literacy education. I think this extra motivation is one of the factors that made my literacy experience a positive one. I also consider this to be the difference between public and private education. I have developed certain preferences when it comes to reading and writing. My favorite kind of reading is when I read just to read, and not for any purpose other than enjoyment. I like reading for hours at a time, and not limiting it because I have something else that I have to do. My favorite kind of writing is when I compose a letter/note/email to someone. Its like freewriting or journaling, but directed at someone so that is has some sort of focus. Sometimes when Im just journaling for myself I run out of things to say and I feel like it lacks purpose. When I write to someone, like my dad, I can include stories and jokes that he hasnt heard yet or even ask him questions. I enjoy that sort of writing the most, because it allows me to be myself, but just enough for someone else to see. So far I have only discussed literacy in the sense of reading and writing. But literacy can apply to several other things. Specifically, it can apply to hobbies or activities. A hobby that I consider myself very literate in is sewing. I consider this literacy because I know how to use a sewing machine, and how to operate all of the other little tools you need to sew. Also, I would often use patterns to make a piece of clothing, and the language a pattern uses in its directions can be confusing to a sewing novice. I think most of all, sewing has taught me how to compartmentalize when I consume information. When you make a piece of clothing, you can only do certain sections of it at a time, and one section will have to be completed before moving on to another. Due to this sequential way of accomplishing a task, I learned to put things into order before doing them, and would visualize what category a certain task would go in before doing it. I tend to do that with a lot of the information I consume now, especially when I study.

Withrow 6

I find that if something doesnt belong to a certain group or compartment, then it is harder for me to understand or remember it. I compartmentalize as I read something, and I even do it when I write an essay or paper, so sewing has definitely affected my literacy as well. In his essay, Sherman Alexie talks about exceeding expectations his teachers have for him, and rising above the rest of his classmates. As he puts it, I was trying to save my life by reading books (Alexie 365). Alexie acknowledges that reading is freedom and knowledge is power. The more you read and the more you know, the more you can imagine, and it allows you to break free from any barriers around you. On an Indian Reservation, that is a problem. But in the environment where I learned to read and received an education, so many people took that skill for granted, and still do. People do not realize how much something can affect their own sense of literacy. What kind of school they attend, what and how much their parents teach them, the environment that they are in, and later on in life, what they use literacy for. Its important to evaluate the purpose of ones own sense of personal literacy. Determining what it is for, and how it has evolved is significant, because this will affect its future development.