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Monday, January 19, 2009

Literacy Autobiography

I love literature. I love when someone can transform my mind into a playground and set up such wonderful scenes, using wit and many other literary schemes to seduce me further into the story. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I enjoy many different genres of literature, some of which is a more recent desire, namely the politically inspired and some biographies.
From my earliest years, I was inundated with books. My mother says she read to me while I was in the womb, and it didn’t stop there. I have very fond memories of my mom reading to me, curled up on the couch. She was an avid reader herself, as were many members of my family. Some of my earliest Christmas memories involved the Highlights magazine for children, sent to my brother and me from a great aunt. As we got older, she paid for us to have a subscription to National Geographic as well. Mom had subscriptions to Guideposts and Reader’s Digest which I loved, and still do. My paternal grandmother always read before taking a nap midday or before bedtime at night. She always had books on hand and encouraged reading to the grandchildren. My father still recalls poems she recited and stories she read to he and his siblings when they were young. As a child, my family went to the library at least once every two weeks, and my brother and I were given our own library card and nearly always left with the maximum number of books allowed. I grew up in the church and with Sunday school classes and at home studies, the Bible also was a highly read book.
I can barely recall how I learned to read, only remembering that we learned the alphabet and what each letter “says” and then learned to sound out most words. I called my mom and she said she wasn’t entirely sure either but knew that we also learned our short and long vowels and we brought home books to read to our parents, many of which used repetition as a means to recognize words quickly without having to sound them out. I also know that in class, we would divide into reading groups. I was in the advanced group and felt proud of that. In 2nd and 3rd grades, if I’m remembering correctly, the students made journals in which we wrote in (and illustrated at times). Some of the writings were based on a question the teacher posed, and others were just diary-form. These are neat to look back at and read. These journals weren’t graded for spelling or other grammatical errors. My mom remembers a story I wrote around this same time frame and recalls thinking I might grow up to be an author. While I enjoyed reading, and still do, writing never actually took off for me.
Book fairs were a big deal in school as well. I enjoyed looking through the catalog and browsing all the books at our school’s library. Mom was usually good about giving us money to pick out some of our favorites. Some of my favorite books from this time were Ramona Quimby, Amelia Bedelia, any Curious George titles, There’s a Monster at the End of this Book, and all the Little Golden Books. I believe I was in the 4th grade when our school began the Accelerated Reader program, and I enjoyed this. The books I most remember reading and falling in love with was Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, which was in the 5th grade.
Late elementary and middle school seem to be a blur of Sweet Valley High and The Babysitter’s Club type books. I also read some of the classics like The Secret Garden and The Prince and the Pauper.
High school is full of required reading and many papers to write. My freshman year we talked in depth about poetry and even had to write many ourselves, and turn in for a grade. I hate that my teacher kept those. It would’ve been great to have and look through again. I didn’t read a lot outside of school those four years. We were kept pretty busy with the required reading, both during the summer and during the school year. I loved most of the books we read, excluding all mythologies and anything by James Joyce. I am very grateful to have been required to read many of the books we did, for some were classics, and others I’m not sure I ever would have picked myself, such as The Once and Future King, which I actually enjoyed (and it was a summer read!). The only thing that has ever really bothered me about having to read books in school, was knowing you would be tested on it later. This sometimes took the fun out of it, as the day of the test, instead of talking about what we thought of the book or what we’d learned from it, the students were making sure we knew certain details and any information we could think may be found on the test. It was nerve-wracking.
I am now a 28 year old woman, married with two children, as well as a full-time student and housewife. Surprisingly, with more things on my plate, I still love reading and have been trying to find more time to do that. Between school semesters, I am running to the library. My kids, ages 4 and 5, both loved to be read to, and the oldest is in kindergarten and is learning to read. They each have their own library cards and like I did, they usually end up with more books than we can carry! My mom will also stock up on library books for my girls when she knows they’ll be coming to see her. I think I enjoy reading the children’s books almost as much (and sometimes more) than I do reading the ones I picked out for me. Over the Christmas break, I was able to read two books, Stop Dressing your Six Year Old like a Skank and How I Helped O.J. get Away with Murder. These are two completely different types of books and yet I enjoyed them both fully. I have started reading Sophie’s Choice, and hope to finish it soon, though it is one of the harder books I’ve read. Some of the vocabulary is above my own, and makes it crucial to use context clues (and I’ve even had to break out the dictionary a time or two). I have also blogged some in the past year or so. I have recently created a new blog. It has no real theme, but is just about what’s happening in the lives of me and my family. I think it’s great to have some record of big events and even the small ones that just explain who we are at this given time in our lives. I enjoy it, but am frustrated at my lack of wit when writing.
As I think about teaching and how literature will be a vital part of that, I am both overjoyed and somewhat rattled. Before I started doing any school observations, I would’ve just been overjoyed. When reading is such a fun hobby of mine, I couldn’t wait to share that with my students and see the same joy in their faces. However, I was very na├»ve about many things. My observations made reality hit me in the face. I had no idea how difficult reading is for many children and how others may be able to say the words on a page, but have no feeling behind it, or even a comprehension of the story line. I am hoping to create a love for reading. I think makings sure students have a good grasp on their imaginations and realizing the magic of stories, through thought-out, creative processes, I can achieve this.

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