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Sarah Sell

ELD 308- Fostering Literacy and Language Literacy Autobiography

April 10, 2012

Literacy and I have always had a bittersweet relationship. While I enjoy reading a good book from time to time, it can quickly become frustrating when the text is either too difficult or fails to interest me. Similarly, I treasure my writing but can never find the time or energy to simply journal a single page. Reading and writing were not always occasional pleasures however. Literacy was once my greatest struggles to learn and appreciate inside and outside of school. Yet, with the persistence of superior teachers and a healthy dose of determination, I excelled academically and emotionally in my literature studies. The task of learning to read and write came with great difficulty to me. Literacy was primarily a recreational activity in my household growing up, and therefore, my parents did not emphasize its importance. My father would read newspapers and magazines, my mother read books by her beloved author, and older my brother, was reading before he started kindergarten. Like wise the only writing I came to know was that of lesson plans my father wrote, greeting cards/ letter my mother would compose, and the variety of writing my brother did in school. Perhaps my parents assumed I would be as literate as my brother was at such a young age, explaining my absent memory magnet alphabet letters on the refrigerator, or of my parents actually sitting down to teach me phonics instruction. My mother would however, read to me every night my favorites: Bernstein Bears, Liar Liar Pants on Fire, and The Giving Tree and would promote nightly reading until I entered high school. Also, we lived walking distance away from the library, so every summer we would participate in the reading programs for prizes as a way to motivate me as a reader. Also, I would sooner color than write as a child because I felt that I was good at art, but certainly not writing. Despite all of the efforts my parents made, I did not truly learn how to read until a family friend at the time referred us to a series of beginner

books that she had used with her sons to help them in their reading. I was excited to receive new books, but quickly became frustrated with the difficult text. By first grade, I was reading a handful of the beginner books but this still was not enough. I was not nearly as proficient as the other children were in their reading abilities and began my academic journey with literature from the back of the class. In first grade, my teacher, Miss Owens, was sympathetic and patient but unsuitable to meet my literacy needs. As a result, I was assigned to a resource room and was pulled out of the class daily for reading and writing. This occurred until the third grade when I was working at a proficient level with the rest of the students. Despite the improvement, I quickly fell back behind with poor teachers who neglected to provide me with the individualized attention I was used to and focus more on content than context. It is for this reason that I am a horrible speller and do not favor reading as much as I wish I did. It was not until the fifth grade that I actually began to enjoy literature. One of the books on our roster was Bridge to Terribithia. It was so meaningful because it opened up a new world to me, causing me to tap deep into my imagination and emotions. From there, I began to enjoy reading more and picked up books for pleasure too. My writing too improved as the focus on words shifted from spelling to vocabulary, relieving some of the pressure I had about the words I chose to use. Tutoring also played a major role in my literacy improvement. I was tutored every summer on vocabulary, spelling, reading and writing until eighth grade when I was finally back in a proficient level class again. Then at the end of my freshman year when my teacher was so impressed by my exemplary work that she recommended me for honors English. I was enrolled in honors English for my sophomore and junior years, and then senior year, I was scheduled for advanced placement. Having started in a remedial literacy

to ending in a college modeled English class has been one of my greatest academic successes and certainly my greatest literary accomplishments. While I was successful in high school with literacy and have continued reading and writing in college, it still is aggravating and difficult at times. One of my greatest setbacks is that I have little to no time to read and write for pleasure. As I have learned in my Fostering Literacy and Language class, the more we read the better our vocabularies, writing, fluency and comprehension become. I rob myself of these opportunities of improvement by busying myself in work, organizations, and other school work. Also, I am very particular about what I read and write and because of this I never find something interesting enough to read or write about that I just do not. I need to be engaged, interested, and feel that I am reading and writing well. If these expectations of mine are not met, I quickly forfeit the task and feel disappointed in myself. Similarly, I usually feel that what I read and write is not good enough stunting my literature growth. I am a perfectionist and from this illness comes the constant feeling that I am not reading a text intellectual enough or that my writing is not worthy of readers. Hence I work on writing for days and keep the books that I do read for pleasure a secret. Finally, I have misconstrued thoughts about reading and writing that keep me from practicing and enjoying literacy. One of my most significant issues is time. I always thought that reading and writing had to be lengthy processes that required a great deal of time. Quite honestly, If I do not read a whole chapter a day, whether it is two pages or twenty, I feel that I have accomplished nothing. Also, I always knew reading and writing to be relaxing activities and would always read or journal before bed. Although, now I see that reading and writing can be practiced, anytime, anywhere, at any length. So long as you are engaged in the processes and enjoying it is really all that matters.

Since enrolling in college, I read and write less and less for pleasure and generally engage in more reference texts and professional writings assigned for classes. However, this semester in Fostering Literature and Language has changed my perception and feelings toward literacy. As a book club participant, I very much favored that we were able to choose the texts that we were interested in and more so, that we worked together in groups to make sense of it all. This literary community raised my confidence as a reader because I felt that my contributions to the group were valuable. Another turning point in my relationship with literacy was Donalynn Millers book The book Whisperer and the expectation that her students were to read of forty books during the year. This inspired me to read forty books in the year and thus I began my book list based on her recommendations and have already completed two on my list. Miller also was a great example of how to get students excited and engaged in reading and writing. She motivated me to want to read more and showed me how solve my reading dilemmas of how to make the time, what to do with books that failed to keep my interest, and how I can be a more confident reader. From Fountas and Pinnell, I learned a great deal about the writing process and how to motivate writers. By hosting writers talks, celebrating students work, and conferring with students to boost their confidence, my future students should feel enthused to share their ideas and findings through writing. Also, journaling has proven to be a dynamic and influential practice that I am happy to make time for as much as I can. I see the benefit it has on students writing when they journal regularly, but I see it too as a excellent tool to understand my students better as readers, writers, and people in general. Overall, by believing that every student and myself are readers and a writers, we can work together to make literacy a lifelong pleasure. Throughout my life literacy has been a positive experience but unfortunately negative as well. My goal is to make literacy a positive experience for all of my students and to broaden my

outlook on it as well. I have learned how reading and writing benefit academic success and promote lifelong learning. Moreover, I have learned the tools to instill literary accomplishments and motivation in myself and students. My goals are to be a more active reader and writer and to share this and my new love of literacy for my students. With this new attitude, I hope that my students and children gain the love of reading and writing that I have found so that their literacy autobiographies are those filled with the wonder and joy that literacy create in all of us.

One of the most essential components of the writing process is revision. We dont always express our ideas clearly or in the desired context the first time we write and thats why we give ourselves time to revise. I composed my literacy autobiography last spring, and since then it underwent a peer review last year and this year as well as my personal revisions both years as well. To receive others perspectives and feedback through peer revising was important to be sure that my writing made sense to my audience. Also in our conferences following their reading, they provided me suggestions of how to make my writing more meaningful and rich. Within my personal revisions, I added what I felt was absolutely necessary for the reader to fully comprehend my relationship with literacy. For instance, in this revision process I added more personal stories and reflection about writing. My first draft focused solely on reading, but I wanted my readers to be aware that while I had negative connotations toward reading, that I was a more confident writer. Another important aspect to my own revisions was that I was able to add new philosophies and insights that I had gained in Fostering Literacy and Language. This course filled me with such hope in becoming a better reader and writer while teaching me where, when, and how I can meet these literacy goals. My confidence and motivation as a reader and writer have been restored, and I wanted to bring my goals to this piece rather than continually hoping that I will be a more active literacy participant. Also from Fostering Literacy and Language I learned how to identify myself as a reader and writer by addressing the different types of students we may have and how we can best fit their literacy needs. Lastly, revision process was important to remind myself of the struggles I had encountered but how they can be overcome by good practices and teachers. By rereading and rewriting my work, I have a fairly good idea of how I can be that teacher for my at risk literacy students and hopefully, my story will create in them the assurance that they can be lifelong literacy enthusiasts.