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Matt Albano

ENC1102
Mrs. Wolcott
January 26, 2015
Literacy Narrative
The stone cold definition of literacy is “The ability to read and write”. The Irony
in that definition is that in order to be TRULY literate we must understand, comprehend
and apply what we read and write. If we cannot comprehend the words on the page then
we are not literate, the words might as well be scribbles.
But how do we become literate? One does not just pick up a book to read and
analyze on their first try they have to be inspired by something. This “something” is what
Deborah Brandt, the professor emerita of English at the University of WisconsinMadison, refers in her article “Sponsors of Literacy” as Literacy Sponsors. She further
elaborates that Literacy Sponsors span from parents, teachers, officers, authors,
institutions and materials; they can also be considered helpful/ positive sponsors or
hurtful/ negative sponsors (Brandt 1997). My goal is to understand who and what my
Literacy Sponsors are, analyze how they have aided me to read/ write more maturely and
to share ideas and ways that I can become a positive Literary Sponsor as a music
educator.
Before I even talk about my journey I wanted to share my parents’ background to
show how their past would affect my future. My mother came from a poor family that
owned their own farm in Pensacola Florida. Neither of her parents had an education past
middle school so as a child she learned what she liked to call the “Southern Belle Slang”
version of English. My father also grew up in a poor family but his parents were

immigrants from the Philippines. My father grew up in a suburban neighborhood so he
learned English from two types of sponsors: his friends and his parents. My dad’s parents
spoke horrible English so my dad started out with some broken English. In both my
parents’ situation their parents were negative literacy sponsors since none of them were
very educated however at school they exceled with their teachers as positive sponsors.
After graduating from high school my parents knew for a long time that they wanted to
achieve more than their parents so they worked hard in grade school to attend the
University of Florida which furthered their education, where the both met and became the
first in their families to graduate from college. Just by examining my parent’s history on
literacy I’m able to understand some of my literacy habits that I inherited through them. I
also learned that everyone’s literacy experience is like a snowflake, no one is alike but
each is genuine in its own nature.
I was the next chapter in my parents’ lives and they wanted me to have the best
opportunity as a child so I could be successful in whatever I strived to become. Most of
the leisure time that I spent with my parents was dedicated to reading me books, taking
me to the library, playing flash card games, playing music and make me draw in a
plethora of coloring books. Until I was about 6 years old both of my parents worked their
9 to 5 jobs so every morning they would drop me off at out neighbor’s house. My
neighbor care taker was an elderly Spanish woman that I eventually referred to as
“Abuela”. She was a unique literacy sponsor for me because I consider her both a
positive and negative sponsor. When I was being taken care of my Abuela she spoke to
me only in Spanish so I at a point in my life I was more fluent in Spanish than I was
English. Once this happened my parents took me away from Abuela so I could be more
familiar with proper English. I do believe that being temporarily bilingual did affect my

learning abilities because when I had to focus on only English I had to go through a
whole new learning process.
I also think that being the first child also affected my learning abilities because I
was the guinea pig of the family so I had a difficult time understanding the concepts of
reading and writing than my younger siblings. As time moved on I realized that I focused
on subjects that truly interested me instead of subjects being forced upon me which
helped me understand that I was more of a visual learner than a philosopher. When I
started attending elementary school I struggled a lot when the class time was focused on
reading and writing and by the second grade my parents figured out that I was dyslectic
and spent hours in the week just making sure that I knew the difference between a “b”
and a “d”. I wasn’t a total train wreck! I excelled in math and science and even
considered being a civil engineer just like my dad. I loved building space ship models and
Lego sets as a kid just like my father did. I believe that the reason why I liked building
my own toys was because there was no reading in the instructions it was all pictures and
simple steps that showed me how to achieve the finished product. This hobby of building
and creating machines out of plastic lasted for a while however my aspirations of
becoming a civil engineer and struggles in literacy slowly ceased after high school.
My most influential mentors and leaders came from Hagerty High school. I didn’t
know it until compositing this project that they all had a huge influence on my literacy
skills and were my Literary Sponsors. I owe about half of my growth in literacy to my
high school English teachers and the other half to a huge role model that I will mention
later. I never had a negative experience with my English classes in high school however I
never had a teacher in that particular field that taught the same way or the same material.

In 9th grade I was in Ms. Reid’s class and her biggest contribution was introducing
the ideas of Symbolism. We read a lot of short stories and actually had organized
discussions or Socratic circles about them in detail. These discussions are what sparked
an interest in reading and analyzing texts because the discussions served as a purpose for
the readings.
In 10th grade I had Mrs. Hamilton. 10th grade was the big SAT/ACT prep year
where we learned how to prepare our essays for the standardized tests. I wasn’t too fond
of this year but Mrs. Hamilton did point out my major grammar flaws and tried giving me
some extra individual attention to help smooth out my writing.
In 11th grade I had Mrs. Gendreau who was probably my favorite of the English
teachers because she was also the film teacher, a class I took my senior year of high
school. In her class we analyzed texts at a more advanced level and went learned about
all the categories that Symbolism had to offer. We had many Socratic circles and other
formal class discussions on literature such as “Huckleberry Finn” and “Catcher in the
Rye”. I learned the importance of analyzing texts and tried transferring it into other areas
of interest like Mrs. Gendruea’s film class and my music classes, a subject I’ll touch upon
later.
Film class was an amazing opportunity to expand on my literacy skills because it
combined my strong influence growing up as a visual learner with the concepts of
analyzing and writing from my English classes. When we would observe a film we were
individually assigned a question that we would answer and discuss with the rest of the
class. We would analyze and talk about lighting, camera angles, makeup/ costuming,
music, some key director characteristics and history. We would also write unit essays
after we have completed a unit or genre of film and a poster project that catered to the

visual and creative students. When she would grade our essays it was no different than
her English class, she would take points off for improper grammar, uncited sources,
misspellings, just to keep us on our toes.
All throughout high school I went through FIVE total band directors but there was
one that impacted my life the most. His name is Mr. Leighton; he was my band/
percussion director from freshman year through junior year. I was lucky enough as a
percussionist to have him as a mentor because he inspired me to be persistent in
perfecting my craft as a musician. It was the individual attention he gave me that swayed
from pursuing an engineering degree to a music education degree. As a sophomore Mr.
Leighton noticed that I was committing a lot of time to the band program that he decided
to give me a leadership position and weekly percussion lessons.
I could go on for pages about how this man has influenced my life as a musician and as a
person but I’m just going to focus on how he made me a better and more efficient
“reader”. I have learned that there literacy skills go beyond just formal reading and
writing; there are multiple categories of literacy and music is one of them. In my first
lesson with Mr. Leighton he began taking about how music is an expressive language
done with instruments. He explained further by saying that it is the musician’s job to
interpret the ink on the page to make music out of the piece. In that very lesson he
parallel music and reading a book, in elementary school it took us a long time to read a
book at first glance, we had to connect the letters on the page to the words that would
come out of our mouths, some people would read at monotone while the others expressed
the texts with feeling and emotion. He then asked me who I was, a monotone reader or an
expressive one? I answered “Monotone.” and he laughed because it was relevant when I
would sight read music. From that point on I sight read more etudes that I would like to

admit however I noticed that both my literacy skills in Music and English drastically
improved.
Last semester I took Composition 1 with Mrs. Wolcott Where I learned how to
compose papers and projects in a manner more free and mature way. I know it may seem
like I’m trying to suck up to my professor for categorizing her as a literary sponsor but
it’s the truth. She introduced me to articles that helped me understand what good writing
is and its purpose to serve a discourse community. It was one of the few classes I’ve
taken where I knew the material well enough to explain it to another person, which
resembled what I had to do for the final project of the class.
One career is for certain for me and that is to become a teacher and as a future
educator is to inspire my students through music like Mr. Leighton did for me. However I
might want to go to grad school and possibly perform as an artist to prove once and for
all that people who CAN teach. I believe with the idea that we are learning about literacy
in composition II that being literate is useless unless we utilize its potential weather it’s
writing an article, reading and performing music or giving a speech. It is also imperative
to me as a future educator to have my students understand and respect the positive
Literacy Sponsors who have taught them to become literate in any subject they encounter
because without the Literacy Sponsors we would have difficulties with communication,
research and other basic necessities that revolve around our daily lives.

Works Cited
Brandt, D. (1997). The sponsors of literacy. Albany, N.Y.: National Research Center on English
Learning & Achievement, University at Albany, State University of New York ;.