Literacy and Liberty

Learning to Write in Cursive
Posted by: , September 20, 2018, 9:44 pm
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I have very little memory of learning to read and write, but I recall very well teaching myself cursive.

When I was little, my father would always tell me that his mother, my grandmother, had the most beautiful cursive handwriting in the world. He described it in the sense that “she would not have been out of place if she were a signer of the U.S Constitution.” Having this information, I aspired to be like my grandmother. Cursive is sort of like another language. The symbols are generally the same, but your hands have to rememorize how to correctly write them. An “A” in print is not an “A” in cursive, for example. I recall sitting down for an hour or so a day and, in my copy book, I would write and rewrite certain words in cursive over and over and over again. Some words I would struggle with and others I would memorize pretty quickly. It was a cool experience for me because I had never worked hard on something at that age, so I felt a sense of accomplishment. Later on, I was more confident in my ability. I began trying to write whole papers in cursive. This proved to be a challenge as some papers were clean, while others were riddled with mistakes. Nevertheless, I continued to try to perfect my cursive. I always kept in mind my grandmother’s handwriting.

At some point, I stopped using it. I’m not sure when I stopped specifically. I still know how to write in cursive, but it is not what It used to be. My older brother writes in cursive all the time, and has beautiful penmanship. I’m jealous of him in a way. Everyday I write, I see the remnants of my childhood work as my writing today is a half-print half-cursive mixture. My generation is the last one that learned to write in cursive, which saddens me. With the advancement of technology, cursive, in my opinion, has become an obsolete subject in American schools. That being said, I will forever cherish the work I did as a child in the field of cursive writing.

Learning to Read
Posted by: , September 20, 2018, 8:34 pm
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Do you remember taking a language in high school or college? Specifically, that first class where you walk in and the professor says something words you’ve never heard and all you can do is nod. I can’t remember that moment when I learned to speak English, probably because I was too young, but I do remember when letters and words started making actual sense to me.

It was probably a Dr. Seuss book, I can’t remember the specifics but the feeling when something ridiculous like “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.” (Seuss, .. (Dr.). I Am Not Going to Get up to Day. S.n, 2009.) I definitely didn’t grasp any meaning beyond the absolute basics of the individual words, but there was something sort of amazing in the fact that those shapes “f,” “u” and the upside-down version of “u.”

The complexity of language is something I take for granted a lot now, but I was thinking about it a lot about a week ago, it was right after my third or fourth class in Arabic and my professor had just explained that three letters we had just learned combined to make a word that is pronounced “bab.” Bab just means door, but when those random symbols are squiggles connected to form something with a real meaning it kind of blew my mind. It wasn’t an earth-shattering discovery by any means, it was, however, a moment that made me recall a moment much earlier in my life, the moment it all kind of clicked, when I learned to read.

Almost Ambidextrous
Posted by: , September 20, 2018, 5:41 pm
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I cannot pinpoint my exact age when I picture the first moment in my memory connecting to reading or writing. In my mind’s eye I can imagine precisely where I am standing, almost like watching an old video, in front of the off-white colored refrigerator rearranging magnetic letters to form simple words. I do not recall what words I had yet learned to form, but I know that the magnets were red and slightly peeling from the usage of two sisters before me.

Once I learned to read small things, I frantically tried to absorb everything that I possibly could. I had two older sisters who were both fairly competent readers by that point, and they used to enjoy taunting me about my own inadequate skills. One of my most favorite activities was reading to the family dog. I thought that she was the most captivated listener and I would read to her whenever I was able. I used to take great pleasure in riding in the car and shouting the names of all the street signs that I could read as loud as I could. I quickly was given the moniker “bookworm” and I absolutely loved it.

My experience with learning to write involved somewhat more of a “love/hate” relationship than that of reading. I identify as almost ambidextrous. I say almost because I was raised right-handed but do many activities with my left. The Catholic pre-school that I went to when I was aged three and four years apparently believed that none of the children should learn to write with anything but their right hand. That is why, when I began to show signs of that sinful left-handed dominance, I was forced to switch hands. As a result of this discomfort with writing early on, I had great difficulty forming letters and grasping how to write as quickly as my peers. To this day, I still hold my chosen writing implement in a bizarre position which resembles that of a child who has never written before. Moreover, my handwriting I have been told, is as close to “chicken scratch” as could be.

Learning to Read and Write
Posted by: , September 20, 2018, 5:28 pm
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Learning to read was a time in my life I remember quite vividly. From what I have heard from most people, learning to read was a skill they learned in school early on, either beginning in preschool or soon thereafter. However, my education of handwriting was not received in any professional setting. Each evening of my adolescence until the age of eight, I was forced to sit next to my mother and read the training series Bob Books. I do not remember the plot of most of these books, but do recall my unwillingness to participate in these exercises. Usually about an hour after we had finished dinner my mother and I would resume where we had left off the previous night, after my sister and I had had enough time to play in the basement and release the potential energy we had generated during the 30 minutes spent sitting at the dinner table. Each word I was not able to pronounce, she would carefully guide me through by making the sounds of each letter with her mouth, and instructing me to do the same.

However, learning to write is a time in my life I do not remember at all. The only writing exercises I can recall were during the third grade, learning to write cursive. We would return to class after finishing with our morning recess time, and the teacher would instruct us to take out our cursive tracing textbooks from underneath our desks. And for an hour, we would trace each letter a dozen times, then proceed to write sentences like “The field trip to the zoo was fun”, or. “The birds flew in the sky”. One part of cursive I remember not understanding, was the purpose of it all. Why would someone choose to use a style of writing no one could understand? What was so wrong with normal handwriting that someone had decided to change the shape of letters and connect every letter in every word? These questions puzzled me as I traced letters like “z” and “b”, letters with no resemblance to their original shape. Although, if someone were to read my handwriting today, it could be easily mistaken as a construed form of cursive as all the letter are connected, just not in the clean fashion I was taught in the third grade, but more like I was in the biggest hurry of my life.

Sing to Read
Posted by: , September 20, 2018, 1:10 pm
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Learning to read was difficult for me.  I used to feel so insecure in my kindergarten class that I would pick up a book and pretend to read, even though I was just looking at the words and not absorbing any information.  I felt like it came so easily to everyone else, especially to the kid who supposedly had already read Harry Potter by the time he started school.  While other kids in my class were reading aloud, I was confusing my d’s and b’s.  I don’t know why, but it just didn’t come easily to me.

My parents were a crucial part of learning to read, they would take turns reading to me every night.  They read the whole Harry Potter and Hunger Games series to me, along with many more.  However, during my struggle to read, my mom would do this incredible thing that really helped me understand how letters and words fit together.  She would spell out words in song form.  The first time I remember her singing out a word to me was with the word “the.” “T-H-E spells ‘the’!” my mom would chant every time I came across this word on a page.  As I got older, spelling tests where a challenge for me, so I would ask my mom for help.  The word “appreciate” was especially hard for me, so she made a song.  She made a song for “necessary” and “caterpillar”.

I think the combination of reading to me every night and the fact that my mom adamantly made sure I could read and write turned me into the avid reader I am today.  I love writing essays and reading new books, and I have my parents, specifically my mom, to thank for helping me through my literacy journey.

Blog 2- Learning to Read and Write (Jacob DeCarli)
Posted by: , September 19, 2018, 5:54 pm
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Nothing brings back childhood memories more like Sheil Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”. As I opened the freshly printed book with my mom, the innocent sketches of trees and apples invigorated my three-year-old mind. My desire to understand the meaning behind the illustrations grew, so my mom decided to start teaching me how to read.


Like Frederick Douglass, the first steps towards my literary education involved assembling different letters into words. As a toddler who had minimal experience with reading, a 2 sentenes seemed like climbing Mount Everest. However, my patient mom helped me to sound out each letter to eventually form a word. The first couple of nights were difficult; I stumbled on words and forgot some pronunciations. Needless to say, we did not read the full book for a while. One night, as we sat in my tiny bed, the words and sentences began to flow out of my mouth seamlessly. The mysterious illustrations now had context, and I was finally able to enjoy the story.


My journey to newfound literacy is commonly experienced by children all across America–we become interested in a colorful book, and our parents help us to read it. However, there are many children in the country and in the world who are deprived from such a wonderful milestone. Whether in third world countries, or inner cities, children do not have the financial or educational privileges to become literate and read books. In context of Fredrick Douglass’s narrative, he did not experience the literary journey that his white master’s children experienced. Instead, he had to rely on learning words and sentences from people on the street, and old books from the white children on the plantation. Literacy should be a right, not a privilege because reading is in our everyday lives. However, as time progresses, children still do not have the ability to become literate.



It’s not just plainly learning to read and write
Posted by: , September 19, 2018, 12:14 am
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Learning to read and write in my home country is a big thing to not only every child but also the family. Parents want their children to take writing courses even before their 1st grade entrance. It has, however, never been my case. While my friends had to exchange their childhood memories for some writing practices and reading lessons, I sure was not in a rush; partly because I took on the lesson pretty well, not a single word was too difficult to spell, not a single grammar rule was too complicated to be memorized.

At school, we also had to learn how to sketch a letter prettily and a whole competition was thrown annually to choose the one with the best handwriting. I have always hated that, although I cannot deny the satisfactory of beholding a beautiful piece of handwriting. There is just something about having to follow a pattern then being graded upon that mould and competing for something that is not necessarily useful in life that upsets me. Fortunately, I was not forced to do something that made me uncomfortable, mainly thanks to my supportive and understanding parents. I think that actually facilitated my learning, both in the past and the present for the luxury of studying with great comfort has allowed me to pursue my favorites and helped define the person I am today.

I Think I Randomly Chose to be Left-Handed
Posted by: , September 18, 2018, 9:54 pm
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Learning how to write was a classroom task for me. It involved sitting on one hand and trying to convince myself (and my teacher) that the writing hand I’d chosen was the ‘dominant’ one based on the idea that the letters were slightly less shaky, despite the fact that early on there’s not much difference. There were copybooks similar to those that Douglass describes, where sentences were printed above lines that looked consistently like this


for students to butcher with our scrawls. We wrote ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” and then we wrote “THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG,” for pages at a time (we learned to write in lowercase and uppercase print in pre-school and kindergarten; cursive wasn’t taught until 2nd grade). It seemed hellish– before your hands get used to it, they constantly cramp and the lack of calluses on the ring finger makes the already-awkward sense of holding a pencil actively uncomfortable.

Learning to write (and read) openly in a classroom, I realize now, was a privilege that comparatively few people get to experience, especially in the case of women. The restriction of literacy that Douglass confronted in his lifetime is hardly eradicated, and the fact that I was taught how to access the texts and ideas of others through reading, and how to express my own through writing, was a gift the gravity of which I don’t think I could have understood from my position at five years old.

Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 7:59 pm
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I was apprehensive when I first sat down in the uncomfortable stacking chair that marked the beginning of convocation. Part of the seat was on an incline, forcing a point on my back into the chair. The speech by President Ensign began with the usual rhetoric; how exciting it is that the class of 2022 is here, and how we are the future. I was looking in the other direction, when one of her sentences caught my attention. To my disbelief, President Ensign was talking about truth seeking. She went on to explain the grayness of truth, the difficulty it takes to find it, and our duty to search. Up to that point, I had never heard a speech about truth from an authority member. I was finally in a place that valued the same things I valued.

Later on, President Ensign stated that we have made great world progress, using poverty statistics, as if it was that simple. The Native Americans would be considered way below the poverty level, because of their way of life. Is it progress that their land was taken over by the United States, and filled with an economy and industry? What about the destruction of our environment? As I listened to her argument, instead of anger, I felt excitement. Her speech reminded me that in order to fulfill my duty at Dickinson, I had to say things that Dickinson may not be pleased with. As I put my pen on the paper to sign my name into the Dickinson records, I felt a twinge of nervousness. I was signing a contract not only to the school, but to myself. In that moment, I was promising that I would do everything in my power to move the world further, even if that means going places that others don’t want to.

Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 4:56 pm
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These days all Chinese are talking about the same news that a famous Chinese billionaire, Head of, got arrested on suspicion of rape in August when he was studying in Minnesota. 

However, lots of people in China assert that this billionaire, Qiangdong Liu, might fall into a trap, which means that there might be some kind of disagreement about money happening between this girl and the billionaire when they were together. Even though facts of this case have not been published by Minneapolis police department, suspected pictures of a woman have been spread all over internet, and people kept making insults about her body line and appearance.

This case deepened my understanding of gender equality. When I went through the news and comments below, one of them saying: “she looks like that type of girl”, I was disgusted and humiliated, and even realized how much work is still needed to be done to talk about gender equality in China. Without knowing the truth, people made conclusion so easily and arbitrarily based on how much money  this billionaire has. And people judged this girl to be prostitute just by a suspected picture posted online by anonymous. I glimpsed the future and the direction I am heading to. Nowadays press in China is controlled by government and power, and the public opinion can be easily directed and suppressed once something serious happened. I think truth needs to be exposed, put under sunlight and talked about in a right way.