Sunday, January 22, 2012

Literacy History

For my Reading Education class, we had to create at paper about our literacy history. I thought you might be interested to gain some perspective into my motivation as to why I want to be an English teacher for the deaf/HoH by reading this little snap.

   I suppose the first question to address is how I learned to read. However, this question of “how” is much harder to answer than “when”. I do not remember many particulars about learning how to read, although I do know that it is different than most people’s experiences. I was homeschooled from first grade through eighth grade. My kindergarten year, I attended my town’s local elementary school. I am sure that the teacher worked with us on literacy and reading, however, I feel like I already knew how to read in kindergarten as I do not remember any type of instruction in the classroom geared towards reading. Perhaps, however, I do not remember simply because it was a long time ago. In first grade, I remember reading many “Dick and Jane” books. They were simple and I could read them pretty quickly by myself. I have a younger sister and an older (both of whom were homeschooled all the way through high school). I remember having “reading time” when I was homeschooled and reading these “Dick and Jane” books to my younger sister.
   As far as reading history outside of school, I know that each summer we participated in our local library’s book contest. The contest was to see which child in the library’s reading program could read the most books in a eight- or ten-week span. I remember my older sister winning the contest three times. Since we were homeschooled, and the library was our main “hub” for learning, we went to the library to gorge ourselves on books at least one or two times a week. We had cloth tote bags and my mom’s rule was that we could only check out as many books that would fit in each of our reading bags. I think mine held about 25 picture books. As time progressed, I liked to read, but wasn’t crazy about it. It wasn’t until my seventh birthday that I fell in love with reading books. I am a horse lover and someone gave me the first book of a series called Pony Pals by Jean Bentacourt. There are 38 books in the series, and over the course of the next two or three years, I read every one of her books. I was obsessed with Pony Pals. This was my first introduction to falling in love with books and from Pony Pals, I began to branch out to other horse books. I loved (and still do) books in a series and cannot tell you how many different horse-book series I have on my bookshelves at home!
   In eight grade, I took a “class” (that was more like a honours seminar) specifically for homeschooled students on Classical Literature. We were required to read the unabridged versions of The Iliad, The Odyssey, and several other Greek plays/poems. I remember reading the first couple pages of The Iliad and not comprehending a word or what I was reading! My mom read the entire book aloud to me over the course of a month or so (bless her heart!). I distinctly remember thinking that I had “made it to the big leagues” and could read anything if I could finish The Iliad and understand it enough to have class discussions on it. I remember going to Barnes and Nobles with my mom on a special trip to pick out which book I would read next. I chose Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. If you are not familiar with the book, the abridged version (which is the copy that I own) is 896 pages long. In all honesty, I am probably on about page 500 and it’s been over eight years since I first started that book! It is a challenge for me and I pick it up every summer and Christmas vacation. (My curiosity got the better of me after about two years of reading it and I have familiarized myself with the story via the soundtrack to the Broadway musical, seeing several different movie adaptations, and talking with many people who have been in local-level theatrical productions of the play. Hence, I am less motivated to finish the book, but I know someday I will!)
   To this day, I still love to read classical literature and am currently reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. My early years spent browsing my local library’s shelves have greatly contributed to my love of reading. Additionally, I think that my mother’s positive view, and also practical encouragement of pushing us to read, also helped me see reading as an adventure that can take you anywhere around the world. I love to talk to people and see life from their perspectives. Reading allows me the opportunity to do just that.
   I know that my love of reading has influenced me in my decision to become an English teacher for Deaf and hard of hearing kids. Most deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) children are language delayed and therefore do not have good language skills. The average literacy rate for a deaf adult is said to be between fourth and seventh grade level. It is extremely hard to teach deaf/HoH children how to read and even more so how to fall in love with reading. I will definitely have my work cut out for me! I feel ready and capable to meet this challenge, however, since I have such a passion for others to be able to discover the magic of books and enjoy reading as much as I do! 

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