My Literacy Narrative
From what I have studied and observed about literacy, I see it as such a varied, fluid and constantly changing concept that to simply select one memory to encompass all that this concept has to offer limits what can be and should be said about one’s literacy development.
My literacy development began at a very early age. I have photos of me as a one year old ‘reading’ junk mail and books. While they may have been u?op-?p?sdn or sdrawkcab it was these early experiences that started off my love of reading and writing. Anything visual really appealed to me, even at such a young age.
I also remember my Mum always reading, talking and taking me and my siblings to the library every weekend. I would have to say, looking back that she was probably the most influential person in my literacy development.
I always quite enjoyed school and the process of it (which is a good thing if I am going to be a teacher). I always achieved rather well, particularly in reading and writing tasks. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed school so much. My experience may have been completely different if I did not perform well at such tasks and wasn’t seen to be as ‘literate’ as others? Hmmm something to consider??? 🙂
One particular memory that has stayed with me is an assignment I completed in year 6. It was a science assignment on clouds and rather than creating a poster full of text, as I had normally done in the past I decided to use lots of images and short pieces of text. I scored really well in this part of the task but went terrible in my speech as I mumbled, giggled and struggled my way through. This experience was the first time I realised learning wasn’t all about how much you can write or well you can read, but also about images and audio factors as well.
It wasn’t until the Senior years of my education that i began to become more aware of other kinds of literacies. Being able to use a computer, a CD player, the internet, mobile phones were all tasks I had to become quite expert at rather quickly and I found that once I did my world became a richer place for it.I believe this is when I really became aware of multiliteracies, even if this wasn’t explicitly obvious to me at the time.
The last few years I have spent at University have shown me even more about literacy and learning. I now have what could be considered an expert vocabulary in the fields of education, sociology and history. I understand terms and concepts unknown to others outside of these discipline’s . I am also a much more critical person in many ways. I cannot watch ad’s without looking for symbols and hidden meanings and purpose. I look for a historical perspective on everything I do and it all goes to show how far my literacy development has come in my short 23 years on this earth. I can only imagine what else I will learn and discover as this continuous journey carries on.
To analyse the above narrative in terms of literacy and language development I need to state what I understand literacy to mean. Some people define literacy as the practices involved with various types of semiotic systems (Anstey ; Bull, 2004). I tend to agree with this definition as it allows for many types of literacy and is flexible enough to begin to explain this concept. As there are many types of literacy this definition also needs to be supported by saying that literacy is acquired, not learnt, and it requires exposure to various models in various settings and the “teaching” is not always compliant in this process and in some cases can even be a hindrance (Luria, Seymour and Smoke, 2005).
The above definition of literacy will help me to analyse my personal literacy narrative in terms of theoretical concepts and understandings.
Functional literacy is a term used to describe a sense of basic competence in reading and writing in order to be a functional and informed worker (Christie ; Misson, 1998). It is this sort of literacy (being able to read and write) that people usually think of whenever literacy is mentioned. In terms of the wider educational context this is the kind of literacy most people associate with formal education. In recent times there has been a push to concentrate more on this kind of literacy rather than others that will be discussed soon. This type of literacy development can be seen in my early schooling days. As I was able to read and write to a sufficient level I excelled at school and as a result enjoyed this process… as I understood it. This understanding came from the use of a variety of methods used by my teachers. I vividly remember being in reading groups (this approach otherwise known as a reading scheme) and we would progress through various different texts. I was always in the highest group in my class and this was used extensively throughout my primary school years. While this technique was more prominent in the 1970s – 1980s it was still being used in the early 90s by my teachers. I can see the validity in this approach as it used components from many types of theories (sociolinguistic, language experience etc) and I believe I learnt a great deal from this type of approach to teaching functional literacy skills (Anstey ; Bull, 2004). As addressed before, I believe my schooling experience would have been very different if I was not competent in this area of literacy or if I did not respond well to this approach.
The development of my cultural literacy is also evident in my narrative. Cultural literacy is interpreted as aspects or ‘snippets’ of knowledge as being vital aspects to understand whatever the text happens to be (Christie ; Misson, 1998). I can relate this to my University education in that I need to have an understanding of historical terms and concepts, as well as the discourse of Education as a discipline to understand the texts associated with these disciplines. This is because I have am ‘culturally literate’ in these fields. On the other hand when my partner talks to me about his job (he is an electrician), I have to ask lots of questions to understand what he is trying to explain. I am not literate in this particular discipline/culture. When considering cultural literacy in the wider educational context it becomes somewhat problematic for teachers. How can they ensure their students have the relevant cultural literacy to understand the work or concepts? Every student will have an individualised cultural literacy and this needs to be considered.
The development of my critical literacy is also evident in my University education. Critical literacy asks us to be ‘suspicious of the obvious and natural’ (Christie ; Misson, 1998). It goes far beyond knowing sounds and words, and moves beyond teaching children to “look and say” and phonics (Anstey ; Bull, 2004). The pedagogy surrounding critical literacy is concerned with making the ideological workings of texts obvious to the users of those texts (Christie ; Misson, 1998). This skill is one that is concentrated on in many subjects I have done at university, particularly History and Sociology. From immersing myself in these subjects I have developed my critical literacy. I am able to see “hidden meanings” and I often try to “read between the lines”. I have learnt how to do this with texts, pictures, videos as well as many other types of texts. I believe this is one of the most valuable parts of my “literary arsenal” as I do believe I have a greater sense of consciousness as to how my world is shaped by those unknown to me and I feel liberated in having this knowledge (Christie ; Misson, 1998). This is an essential type of literacy in educating students. Once they have the ability to assess and evaluate texts of all kinds their learning will only benefit, as well as their lives. It is a critical skill for informed and active citizens and teachers should try to build this skill in their students.
Personal literacy (my interpretation anyway) is the skills and values one has in relation to literacy and the personal ‘repertoire of practices’ one acquires through their literacy journey (Anstey ; Bull, 2004). From this interpreted definition I would say my personal literacy has been influenced by a multitude of things. My family, teachers, parents, friends, peers, lecturers and co-workers have all affected my understanding of literacy. My literacy narrative shows the diverse influences that have shaped my individual and personal literacy. The implication for educators and the wider education context is that (as with cultural literacy) all students will have a different personal literacy and this has to be a consideration for programmers, educators and policy makers.
By analysing my own personal narrative has allowed me to look at types of literacies and see their usefulness and application in and education context. From this exercise I now have a greater understanding, not only of my own literacy/literacies, but of literacy as a concept in itself.