Literary · Personal

Just Write! | My Literacy Narrative

Hello fellow adventurers!

I’m taking a mandatory composition course and our first big assignment was to write a Literacy Narrative: basically a paper describing what our personal thoughts on literacy are and our experiences with reading, writing, and communication. For many obvious reasons, I loved this assignment. So I wrote, and I rewrote and finally I came to a place where I was okay with stopping and handing in the paper. I’m very proud of this paper because it is deeply personal for me but also because it flowed so easily. In writing this paper there was no hardship; I didn’t have to struggle. Writing it felt like writing a piece that I would publish on here, so since it’s been graded already I thought I would do just that. Enjoy!

Vaguely, I remember learning my letters in kindergarten. I remember my tan-skinned, and black haired teacher holding up signs with big, bold letters on them along with a common object that started with the specified letter. From early elementary school, I always watched Full House in the mornings and there’s an episode that relates to literacy. Michelle, the youngest, is learning how to read and is having a difficult time. So the other members of her family try different ways to help her, including using magnetic letters on a whiteboard. Eventually she gets it and can read words like ‘cat’ and ‘hat’. I wish and wish with all my might that I may recall how I learned to read, and how I felt about it at that age like I can remember that episode. However, along with other precious memories the answers were lost in my transitions through different stages of life. That being said, I do remember my favorite books as a blonde, curly haired child.

At some point between kindergarten and third grade I started reading everything I could get my hands on. For lack of better material, while on the toilet or in the bath I would read the directions, descriptions, and ingredient lists on various bottles. Mostly though, I would spend afternoons at the local public library and Barnes & Nobles in the children’s section reading every Amelia Bedelia and Junie B. Jones book that they had in stock. These were my favorites and I read them over and over. Even at that age, reading had became an escape from reality that I relished because even though millions of other kids had read these same books, they felt like my own special magic. Throughout elementary school and well into high school, I was exceptionally shy. Exceptionally, not incredibly. I was so good at being shy that the kids I had known since kindergarten had forgotten what my voice sounded like and believed me to be a mute. Every time I would speak up in class or randomly burst out laughing(which I was known for doing), the faces of my classmates mirrored that of an Edvard Munch painting. Being that shy made it difficult to make and keep friends because those that were shy in middle school grew out of it by freshmen year and were completely different, make-up clad girls by sophomore year. Books have been the one constant throughout my life and they’ve been the source of my most loyal friends and influencers.

Of all the books and through all those years there has been one book in particular that keeps affecting me, Matilda by Roald Dahl. Over a decade later, I still fondly remember the dozens of times that I’ve read it. Third grade was the year of Matilda for me, I continuously checked it out of the school library and would read it more than once per loan period. One memory I have of reading Matilda was during a sleepover, I was huddled under a sleeping bag with a flashlight completely mesmerized by the book. I identified with her in many ways, excluding her family(my family is fantastic and loves that I read). Firstly, she loves to read and has read everything she could get her hands on, sound familiar? Secondly, her family thought she was weird. While my family encouraged me, there were other people in my life who thought I was weird and a freak because I read so much. On the other side of the coin, there were a group of kids in my school who were envious because they loved reading and couldn’t read as fast as me. I also looked up to Matilda, she was strong and courageous; reading quite literally gave her magical powers. She stood up to the scary Ms. Trunchbull and her family in order to protect her friends, teachers, and access to books. To this day, she is still one of my (fictional)heroes.

Reading and writing often go hand-in-hand, though, my love of writing developed a little later than my love for books. I don’t know when I really found my love of writing, there isn’t one clear moment that I can look back on and say, “That assignment really inspired me”, or “this teacher really taught me to love writing”. If I had to guess, my love of writing probably came from all the books I’ve read, possibly I just wanted to make others feel how those authors made me feel with their work. Again, that’s just speculation. All I know is that after writing, I feel full of a million warm bubbles and get a tingly, proud sensation throughout. I can’t help but smile when I’m done.

Writing is the easiest way for me to express my emotions, thoughts, dreams, and fears. One of my favorite quotes is by Joan Didion, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” When I write, I write to unravel my complicated thoughts and make sense of them but I also write to make others think and feel. Words are magic and I always like to think of myself as a wizard casting spells on the reader. It’s also very powerful; just a few words can invoke so much thought and feeling. My classmates and I agree that this in-and-of itself is the definition of literacy; the ability to be touched by the written word and to be free while writing. To be literate is not simply to know how to read and write but rather to enjoy the acts of both.

Of course, I’ve also had very negative experiences with reading and writing. I stutter when I read out loud and mispronounce the easiest of words, which really embarrasses me. Because of this, I dreaded story time in elementary school and couldn’t pay as close attention to the story. I’ve also had dozens of papers and stories come back to me from teachers splattered with red pen, and negative comments. Those days the warm bubbles turn to ice cubes and tears spring to my eyes. Countless times, I’ve thought to myself, “I’ll never be good, no matter how hard I try I will never succeed”. For days after getting those papers back, I won’t pick up the pen to write; I won’t open up a Word document. I think, though, that when you love something you find ways to get passed the bumps and patch up the cracks. So, though it’s always disheartening to receive that paper, there’s a drive that has been planted deep within me and forces me to pick the pen back up, to open up a fresh Word document and write. Just write.

What are some of your experiences with reading, writing, and communication? How do you define literacy? Is English your first language, and if not:  How did you learn it? Until next time!

~K.D.

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