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Maddison Craig

Professor Jan Rieman

English 1102.073

February 7, 2011

Why Boys and Girls are Different

To me, my personal literacy is based off of an idea I have about my sponsors: a

literary sponsor is someone who taught me what I know today. However, to evaluate a

personal literary history, you must first travel back in time to the days you remember first

learning to read. My mom will never let me forget the first time she knew I was going to

be a bookworm. My father had an important business client over for dinner, and me being

the cute little three year-old I was, the guest insisted on putting me to bed. Overwhelmed

with joy, I couldn’t wait to lead him upstairs to show off my newfound skill of reading

my own bedtime stories. A few minutes later my mom tip-toed upstairs to peek in on how

settled I was getting, and promptly walked into quite an interesting scene. Just picture

this: An important business client sitting uncomfortably next to a little three year-old girl

reading “Why Boys and Girls are Different,” quite fluently explaining the birds and bees.

Needless to say, I was “quite the genius” despite the awkward moments I was blissfully

unaware of, but it made quite a funny joke for business meetings to come. While my

mother may have been the first person to teach me to read, my literacy spans teachers and

educators, Army personnel, and technology social influences through your peers, each as

important as the next.

When I was just an infant, my mother first began sharing her love of literature

with me; and while I may not have been alert enough to know it at the time, her love of
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books would be passed down to me as if it were genetic. By the time I was two, I could

recite “Green Eggs and Ham” verbatim, and could soon-after read it incase I got lost in

the long recitation process. For example, eventually I could see “Sam I Am” and know

that he was the pesky critter with the Green Eggs and Ham. The rhythm of the book

included many “I will not[‘s]” especially the famous, “I will not eat green eggs and ham,

I will not do it Sam I Am.” After the rhythm was down, it was as easy as pie to remember

the rest. My mom swears up and down that I was probably the smartest kid on the block,

and her positive reinforcement had me reading the “Nancy Drew” book series in the first


Much like my mother, the instructors I had through public elementary, middle,

and high school dramatically influence my writing skills as well as exploring new realms

of the book world. In elementary school, when you reached the fourth grade, you had a

kindergarten mentor you had to help teach to read, and up until that point, I had never

realized that there were other people learning to read better and writer better just like me.

In middle school, I had a woman named Mrs. Forbes as my “G/T” seventh grade English

teacher. (Gifted and Talented education classes in Texas were designed as colligate prep

classes all the way back to elementary school. I learned to write a check in that program

when I was in the fifth grade: a skill many college kids lack). She assigned books like “A

Tale of Two Cities” and “Watership Down” to us. Mrs. Forbes, unlike any teacher before

her, required us to write. For the first time in English classes, I remember receiving a

paper back from a teacher that was actually graded for voice instead of content and

grammar. For the first time in English classes, I remember being frustrated in the steps it

took to develop my writing further, beyond correct spelling and punctuation, to find the
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true voice and meaning behind my writing. By the time I reached high-school I was very

prepared for what actually college prep AP (Advanced Placement) courses would throw

at me. “Frankenstein” was something I could read and process before breakfast. “Native

Son” was something I had done for an evening’s dinner, with just a play or two by

Shakespeare for dessert. I learned to write formal papers, inquiries and persuasive essays,

and informal little jaunts across a notebook page. Within public school, I developed most

of my grasp on the formal written and read English language.

By the time I reached college, I was prepared for what English had to throw at

me. What I wasn’t prepared for was what life had been holding behind its back. A

baseball bat with the words “US Military” emblazoned on the side knocked me off of my

feet as I stepped off of the bus landing at Army Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood,

Missouri. I wasn’t prepared for the vernacular or the discipline; and I sure wasn’t

prepared for the level of education other people had received that I was expected to work

with. There were people who couldn’t do simple math, or even memorize a simple

repetitive Soldier’s Creed. The environment at Basic Training is such a melting pot, that

it is designed to disintegrate any and all personal beliefs or agendas to form one whole

cohesive unit. By the end of Basic, I was no longer worried about how the girl standing

behind me would probably spell “covering” without the letter ‘G’, but I did know that no

matter what, she would be covering my back if we were deployed together. After 15

weeks in sub-zero temperatures and several feet of snow, I was well-versed by Drill

Sergeants and other soldiers alike on the ways of the Army and the societies around mine

that I hadn’t seen before. Suddenly, we all knew the same tactical movements and

acronyms, so it didn’t matter if we made it through high school. Suddenly we were all on
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even playing fields, and the sky was the limit on how far we could advance as soon as we

realized that we were no different from the privates that were in front and behind of you.

Most of what a few girls from Harlem and I had in common was that we knew

how to talk to people in such a way that extracts the biggest tips. These girls and I both

worked as hostess and servers in up-scale restaurants. While they were in Manhattan and

I was in Dallas, the idea was the same. The kinder a person you are, and the more

attentive you are, the more they are willing to part with when they sign the check. As a

server, you realize that there are many other people in world, living on a pay-check to

pay-check basis just like you, who know what the word “chix” means. While the short-

hand for Chicken might not seem like much, to a server it means the difference between

scribble and a legible order you can put into the computer. The use of a computer as a

server is so crucial, that without it, you couldn’t perform the job. A computer is important

in many ways, between communicating with friends, family, teachers, and employers.

All-in-all, social aspects of life really influenced my knowledge and understanding of the

world around me. We, as a generation surrounded by computers, have communication

with people as individuals and with media outlets as a whole at the tip of our fingers.

Unlike most people, I actually had a pen-pall all the way from middle school to now. He

was a same-aged student as I was, but was attending school in Jackson, Mississippi. We

have talked about everything there ever was to know; but we made a pact to each other

that we will always write or email or text message each other in correct English. Over

time, that hasn’t really changed between my correspondences with anyone. I always

have, and always will, send emails and text messages like I would speak: In full,

complete, and punctuated sentences. However, because of my social status as ‘teen’ in a

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world of viral internet, I have learned to interpret other people’s quick short-hand. While

it may not be a useful skill for a resume, I have learned a whole new aspect of literacy

through social media.

All in all, influences that sponsor your literacy come from everywhere, whether

you realize it or not. Deborah Brandt defines a Sponsor of Literacy as someone who

directly influences your literate knowledge, but does not limit it to a specific language or

style (Brandt, 409). Taking that definition and applying it to my life makes me realize

that I am literate in so many different types of ‘languages’; English as a written language,

writing anything for formal papers to informal journals, Army-speak and Army tactics

and operations, computers and technology used today, and even social literacy in how to

understand your peers despite background differences.

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Works Cited

Brandt, Deborah. “Sponsors of Literacy.” Writing about Writing: A College

Reader. Eds. Wardle and Downs. Boston: Bedford, 2001. 406-26.