Literacy and Liberty

Ellis Island
Posted by: , October 3, 2018, 4:59 pm
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In fifth grade, I distinctly remember taking a trip to Ellis Island with my class. We had been studying its history and significance. I knew that I had descended from a trio of Russian, Polish and Austrian immigrants. However, I had no idea what they  had to go through during the process of immigration to the States.  Hunger, homesickness and hopelessness were common symptoms felt by many people who would embark off of ships. Many people who were hopeful on staying in the US would also face rejection. This could be determined by “doctors” who examined them after embarking. These doctors could determine whether or not an immigrant could stay by examining them. While on Ellis Island we visited a memorial called The Wall of Honor.  This wall still serves as a way to honor families members who came to Ellis Island as immigrants. I remember feeling terrified, because of the overwhelming names displayed on hard, concrete walls. I heard stories of girls who at the time who were my age and who I admired for what they persevered.  Needless to say, a lot of it went way over my 9 year old head. It wasn’t until years later when my brother was studying our ancestors that I thought about it again. My mom made one of those accounts and she became very engrossed with it. Some information truly surprised her and I. We learned that my fraternal great-grandfather came from Odesa and then moved to England. His mother died soon after coming to the U.S. My great-grandfather believed that his mother died of both a broken heart from homesickness and loneliness. On the bright side, most of my ancestors thrived after arriving to the US by working hard, learning English and assimilating. They successfully made America their home. Drawing from the experience of my family has given me perspective. I am grateful for the life I am living because of they had the courage, strength and vision to flee a bad situation. This helped ensured that their children and future generations would have the freedom their dreamt of.


Posted by: , September 21, 2018, 4:54 pm
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As a young girl, I attended Lycée Francais de New York. At that school, I was a total and utter anomaly at times. Most kids had bilingual parents, whereas I had two loving parents that did not speak a language other than English and a splash of Hebrew. Truth be told, learning how to speak French at the age of 2 is something I do not have a lot of memory of. I do, however, remember learning how to read in French which was engrained in my childhood. Many children’s book I had were in French and I had to learn how to read them on my own, because my parents were unable to. What intrigued me about reading in French was the way the words flowed. I also just loved gazing at the illustrations I saw in the books while staying after school. In the fourth grade, I was hard core struggling in school. My teacher at the time was severely scary to me because she yelled when I did not do something right.  Sometimes, she even pulled me out of class because she told me that I just kept making mistakes while reading and could not be helped. Words started to make me sick to my stomach and my mouth became my worst enemy. I had no idea how to ask for help or if it was even worth it.

Lucky for me, my insightful mom knew something was up. She introduced me to Madame Stephanie Durand. Madame Stephanie Durand at the time tutored my younger brother who struggled with his dyslexia. It’s weird, I still remember my first encounter with her. I was in my room crying  because I wanted to give up and never go back to school. Not to brag, but I was a little bit of a diva when it came to stress at 8 years old. Anyway, Stephanie then knocked on my door asking if she could come in and I remember being too shy to reply. She came in anyway, left the door open and sat on my window sill , looked at me right in the eyes and spoke to me. Stephanie told me that she believed in me and told me that if I worked hard, I could believe in myself. It probably sounds corny but for an 8 year old me, it sorta touched my heart. She helped me rock the fourth grade despite having a scary teacher and sometimes struggling with French reading comprehension. Words started to make me smile again and I became an avid participant in class when it came to reading aloud. I felt like I was on top of the world when it came to school.

Sadly, it broke my heart when Stephanie told me at the tail end of that school year she was leaving to go back to Normandy. Stephanie left me with an encyclopedia which was all French and told me to try learn something new from it everyday. The following school year, my brother and I attended an English speaking elementary school while I still took French on the side. I remember trekking the heavy 1000 page book for the first few days before realizing it was too heavy to bring. Reading from it still reminds me that I am capable and that it takes the right people to walk into your life to believe in you.

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.