Tag Archives: education

Happy International Literacy Day!!

The Literacy Site blog informs me that today is International literacy day, and in celebration I thought I would share my experience of the importance of literacy.

Now, I don’t remember my first book, but knowing my mother it was read to me and at a very young age.  By young, I mean before I had a conscious concept of myself much less something so abstract as a book.  I have no doubt that it was something like The Little Engine That Could, or Green Eggs and Ham, or some other childhood classic.  It is to this that I attest my obsession with growing my collection of children’s books.  That is in circles where the explanation, “Because I like children’s books” is not an acceptable enough reason for such a collection.

However, if I were to rely on the memory of my childhood bookshelves and boxes eventually given to the used bookstore, I would guess that I have read or been read, at least, the following:

  • Caps for Sale
  • How to Eat Fried Worms
  • The Velveteen Rabbit
  • Curious George      
  • Goodnight Moon
  • Charlotte’s Web    
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
  • The Giving Tree  
  • Madeline 
  • The Monster at the End of this Book
  • James and the Giant Peach   
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but I have no specific memory of reading these or any other childhood books.  None whatsoever.  I’m sure that I’ve read them, of course.  I mean they sat in my room until I was 10, but of most of them, I couldn’t recite a single line.  

My passion for the importance of reading and advocating for literacy education comes from the books that I do remember – the books that meant something, and continue to mean something today.  Some of them were integral to my understanding of human nature.  Some of them helped me cope with the challenges I have faced in my life.  Some of them touched me so deeply that I still carry with me the same feeling that I had when I shut the cover every time I think of them.  And some of them were just plain fun!  

It was recommended to me once that I write a memoir, and I remember thinking, who would read a memoir about me?  What would I write about?  I’m not that interesting, or at least nothing of interest has really happened to me.  A straight memoir about my life can be summed up in a few words: Born in suburbs; Attended public school; 2.5 adorable children and a dog (of which I was one – the children, not the dog).  As you can see, there isn’t a lot there.  Pretty much every other kid in suburbia has had my life.  We are not the Kennedys; we are not the Jacksons; we are not the Clintons; we’re not even the Joneses – although we were the first ones in my neighborhood to own a CD player and, I think, a computer.  So you see, I wasn’t even deprived of anything, except the Power Wheels I always wanted.   And why didn’t I get the Power Wheels?  Because my parents agreed that they wanted my brother and I to have self-propelling vehicles to encourage activity and exercise.  That’s right.  I don’t even have a weight problem.  What the could I possibly write about in a memoir?

But a trip to the bookstore made me see things in a different light. As I browsed the shelves, both in the children’s section and general fiction, I saw book after book which, for me, defined a certain experience or time in my life  As I walked out, and got in my car, I started thinking of my life in books, and when I did that I found remembering a book that I read made me remember a specific event, which for one reason or another, was tied to it.  Maybe it was because the book made an event more meaningful, or maybe I read the book during a secure or happy time and it brings me a contented feeling, or maybe I had to stand in line for an hour because all of a sudden Everybody In The World has to have the latest Harry Potter.  Whatever the reason, it turns out I can associate most of the memories I have with one book or another.  Just like one song can bring you back to your high school prom, so can one book touch you so deeply that it will remain with you forever.  That is the importance of literacy.

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O – “One”: A Pronoun

It’s not just the loneliest number. These days, it’s a fairly lonely pronoun too as it appears to have fallen out of usage for the most part.

Honestly, how often when we are writing, even formally do we use the pronoun “one”?  I personally try to as often as I can, but even when I do it sounds unnatural as though I’m being too pretentious – which is my natural state, so that doesn’t stop me.

But so often, when you read blogs, essays, or even newspaper and magazine articles, the opportunities one has to use this pronoun is replaced with an all encompassing “you”.

While I struggle with the correctness of my own and others grammar – yes, I’m one of those – I do recognize how antiquated one can sound when using this pronoun correctly. On the other hand, in certain cases – especially opinion pieces, editorials, and other very passionate, personal writing – an all encompassing “you” can come off sounding accusatory. For instance, someone may say, “You have to wonder what the mayor was thinking when he voted to raise taxes”, but I may agree with a tax hike if it pays for other services, so no, I don’t have to wonder that.

I tend to cringe when I read or hear people make this replacement, just as I would cringe if someone were to misuse subject verb agreement, because in my mind, I know it is a grammatical error. But these days, so many grammatical errors, new words, and an abundance of acronyms are accepted, that perhaps it is no longer contested. Perhaps teachers of language arts and english are teaching that either usage is correct.

Reader, what do you think? Which is correct? Which should be correct? Which do you use?

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L – Letter Writing: It’s For Posterity

I’m an old soul. I’ve known that for years, but as technology advances, and we become more and more distanced as a global society, I find my old soul more and more obvious. One of the points that proves this to me: It breaks my heart that people don’t write letters anymore.

Sure, we email friends. We keep in touch via facebook and Twitter. We make important business connections through LinkedIn. We make new friends through online forums over shared interests. And that’s great and all.

But I miss letters. I miss them because of the beauty of them. There was an art to writing letters. One didn’t write a letter to a friend to share all the details of each day. One wrote a letter when something extraordinary had happened. The death of a loved one, or the celebration of new life, marriage, retirement even. One wrote a letter to share the thoughts of a challenging event, either in one’s personal life or the world around him/her. And these letters were truly writing. Writing the way we write our stories, and novels, and nonfiction. It was worth it to sit down and really get the words right because it was important to communicate as clearly and eloquently as possible what you were thinking. The fact is, the person on the other end couldn’t just retort a quick, “Huh?”, and allow you to clarify. The meaning had to be just right, and this was an art.

But there was a visual art to it, as well, in the penmanship. We have allowed penmanship to fall by the wayside, even in our elementary schools where we our teaching our children that writing is a thing you can do, but typing is what you must learn. I remember as a child devoting so much class time and homework time to handwriting – learning print, then cursive – and I worked hard on it. But after I had learned the “correct” way, I began to play with the forms of the letters, and this is where the artist takes over. I have now developed a truly unique penmanship that I rarely ever get to use. (It’s one of the reasons I generally write all my fiction by hand before transcribing it into the computer.)

So, maybe I should pose another challenge here. Write a letter. But not just one, many. Find someone with whom you can begin a correspondence. Why? Because of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letters From A Birmingham Jail. Because of the abundance of information we know about famous writers, politicians, leaders, thinkers, movers, and shakers of history – most of which we discovered through their letters.

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G – Graphic Novels; Crossroads Of Visual And Written Art

I can’t lie.  I’ve never really read any graphic novels.  Not to my memory anyway.  But not too long ago I had a conversation about their literary merits.  The opposing view was that they fall under a different category and don’t “count” – for lack of a better word – as reading or books.  (Mind you, this was with a teacher friend, and I disagree).

In a 2010 article for the ALAN review, assistant professor of English Education at University of Arkansas,Fayetteville, Sean P. Connors defines the professional debate, illustrates common reasons for resistance to including the genre as a viable literary form, and suggests that not only can graphic novels encourage further interest in various literary formats, but also teach high-level thinking, stimulate discussion, and foster appreciation of literary and art forms of various styles.

The truth is graphic novels are like any other creative art – there are good and bad representations that are capable of moving readers, making social commentary, and inspiring reflection and examination of the reader’s life and the world around him or her.

The composition of a graphic novel incorporates all the same elements as traditional literature – character development, plot, theme, tone, point of view, motifs, symbol, etc.  So why shouldn’t it be recognized in the same way that traditional literature is?  In comparison, let’s consider how long it took for the Academy of Motion Pictures to give animated feature film the same recognition as traditional, live action.  And how many of the same points were argued in that debate?

 

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