Literacy and Liberty


why reading matters to me
Posted by: , September 4, 2018, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

My junior and senior year of high school, I went to a boarding school in West Virginia. Every Friday, a group of girls and I would head to this small elementary school to volunteer. We would help teach kids in various subjects which ranged from Math to English. It was literally the highlight of the week for all of us since it always gave us girls something to look forward to. Also, Mr. Lewis, the teacher that drove us would let us jam out to all kinds of good music on the way there and back. My favorite teacher, Ms. Traffelet, would also meet us at the school to encourage us and sometimes take us to McDonald’s or the library afterwards. Working at the elementary school taught me the value of enjoying the little things in life. For example, having the ability and privilege to read and teach others how to read. Reading is so powerful to me because it can cultivate and create different ways to process the world. When helping a young 7 year old boy named Noah read, it was sometimes a struggle. He struggled with pronouncing certain words and focusing on assignments. As time progressed, Noah kept excelling at his work because he wanted to read and learn more about the world that he barely knew. It always made my week seeing him because he would draw me little pictures based off of what he read. Noah’s favorite things to read about were cars and fairytales about kings who thought that they “had it all”. He told me that when he would grow up, he wanted to be something close to a king. I told him that if he kept reading, tried his best and went to school, someday his dreams would come true. For some reason, I get the feeling that I will see him on the cover of a Forbes magazine in the near future. The last day that our group volunteered, we made a special stop at a local library. I found this poetry book called, “Black Butterfly” By Robert M. Drake that totally sucked me in from the very first page. As I read through it, I felt like the words and language the author used were raw. Raw meaning that the emotions could be heard right off the paper while reading it. When going to check the book out, I remember just feeling so excited to be able to read the rest of it. However when I got back to my boarding school, the book was unapproved. This meant that I had to give it back to my teacher, Ms. Traffelet. Ms. Traffelet had to drop it off at the library the following day and she was not too happy about it. She and I both shared the mutual feeling that the school was too strict with its book and movie censorship.  Sadly, my school would only approve certain books and movies. It would not allow students to read any book or watch any movie that they wanted to like most schools. I did not even get to read up to the fifth page until two months later when I purchased the book myself. That is why I feel like reading is a true privilege for me today. I have the ability to read whatever book I want to read and it may seem small to some. What truly matters though, is that it is big to me and that I can help more kids like Noah enjoy reading.




6 Comments so far
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This is so sad. The fact that your school actively dictated what material you were allowed to be exposed to is so toxic and such an effective way to control the thoughts and conversations going on in a community. Censorship is rarely a good thing, and I’m sorry that you got stuck in a situation where you were not only being actively limited by those who should’ve been encouraging you. Hopefully Noah has a more positive experience.

   baronej 09.05.18 @ 3:21 pm

Natasha, this post, once sharpened and made more concrete, has all the makings of a great literacy narrative. The turn to censorship is especially striking, as Julia suggests.

   Professor Seiler 09.05.18 @ 4:10 pm

I found myself smiling and frowning while reading this, there is definitely a super valuable emotional aspect to this that I love. Im super excited to read more, especially about Noah!

   Logan Cort 09.06.18 @ 7:05 pm

I can totally understand your feeling when you had to give Black Butterfly back, which makes me recall how hard it is for me to make contact with some certain books when I was in China. It is inspiring that you apply your interests to help Noah, and I deeply agree with you the power of reading can change people’s whole life. Hopefully Noah is having better life experience.

   Julie 09.06.18 @ 9:01 pm

I can totally understand your feeling when you had to give Black Butterfly back, which makes me recall how hard it is for me to make contact with some certain books when I was in China. It is inspiring that you apply your interests to help Noah, and I deeply agree with you the power of reading can change people’s whole life. Hopefully Noah is having better life experience.

   JulieL 09.06.18 @ 9:02 pm

I can totally understand your feeling when you had to give Black Butterfly back, which makes me recall how hard it is for me to make contact with some certain books when I was in China. It is inspiring that you apply your interests to help Noah, and I deeply agree with you the power of reading can change people’s whole life. Hopefully Noah is having better life experience.

   Julie 09.06.18 @ 9:04 pm



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