Literacy and Liberty

What does it take?
Posted by: , September 21, 2018, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Throughout pre-school, I had very mixed feelings about reading and writing. I liked when my mom told me stories, I enjoyed making swirly cursive letters in my copybook. I had an assignment to free write about my great grandmother who had passed away, and I distinctly remember the experience of feeling powerful. But, when I went to elementary school, my enjoyment of literacy abruptly ended. In third grade, there was a competition to see how many books you could read. Students would ask adults to sponsor them, and the money went to charity. I was excited because of the competition, but I was relieved when I finished the one book I managed to get through. 

At one point I cried because I had to write a paragraph. I remember this because my younger self found the chore of writing so painful. In retrospect this is amusing, but after reading Frederick Douglass’ story, I see a failing of our society. It took me years to see reading and writing as the privilege and gateway that it is, and glimpse the freedom that it creates. How could such an incredible privilege come to be seen as a chore, or even a punishment? Does it take us not having something, or having to fight for something, to be appreciated? 

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Talya, your good post is one of handful in this batch that describe the JOY of early reading being dampened by school competition or rules. While I think it’d be hard to teach a young, discouraged kid what a privilege literacy is (though one hopes this awareness comes later, as you note), wouldn’t it have been great if your school nurtured the pleasure of reading?

   Professor Seiler 09.25.18 @ 8:04 pm

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