Sunday, July 5, 2015

Francis Literacy History

Literacy History Blog Response
In any typical Kenyan household, at the time I was growing up and for the most part today, parents and caregivers did not read to their children. This is because they have other “responsibilities” that keep them busy hence do not have the time to read to their children.  My situation was no different. My parents did not read to me. However, they indeed played a significant role in helping me to read. They sent me to school, which at the time was a privilege that many did not have. I had teachers who read to me as well as the older students in my school. When I went back home everyday, I had to tell my parents what we had read and what I had learned and we talked about it.

My parents were my role models when it came to reading. They loved to read newspapers every morning while having breakfast. I therefore grew up believing that reading was for important people as only “important” people read in my community and that made me love it even more. While maybe it wasn’t true, it did motivate me to keep reading and to love reading. Seeing my parents read was also a motivating factor.

I remember when I came home from school when I was in third grade with a storybook I had been given in school. After lunch on this day, I took the book out and read it to my mother and my two siblings. My mother was so impressed by how I had read that she took me out for ice cream. She told me I had read very well and this is the point I realized I was literate. I was not only reading the words but I understood what they meant. I mostly enjoyed reading the African folk tales that had a moral lesson at the end. My mother bought me new African folk tales books once in a while.

In school however, I remember feeling frustrated by my teacher. She believed that I was a good reader but her ways of encouraging me to read more were frustrating to me. After reading a text, she had so many questions about that text that led me to not want to read anymore. For me, reading had just become something I enjoyed doing. When I felt it had become more work for me, I became frustrated and begun to avoid it.

As a foreign language teacher, I find myself being influenced by the experiences I describe above. To this effect, just as I was encouraged to read by my mother, I encourage my students to read by availing books that are of interest to them. However, I fear making the same mistake my teacher made namely, over teaching and making reading to feel like a burden more than something that my students actually enjoy. Having the older students in my school read to me was something I enjoyed. In my teaching, I have incorporated this where I work with the middle and high school Spanish teachers so that my elementary students can have “reader buddies” to read to them.


  1. Francis, this was so great to read. It says a lot about how families have a culture of literacy and how that can influence perceptions of where members stand in a community. While your parents may not have had the time to read to you, there was still this appreciation and value to it that was instilled in you. Luckily in school you had teachers read to you to get you even more excited about reading. However, your frustration is no uncommon. In fact, it is all too common. I think your teacher saw so much potential that she wanted to push you. She also may have been relying on traditional methods of teaching reading which mainly focused on comprehension questions. Therefore, the reading became a chore and was task oriented. I think it is hard to strike a balance between reading for instruction and reading for enjoyment. This is especially true in the era of teacher accountability and high stakes testing. Often, independent time spent reading in school is considered a luxury.

  2. Francis, hi again even though we meet almost everyday and through this blog I have known a different person. It is wonderful being a part of this group and honestly after reading some of the other blogs here, it is so amazing to know that we all come from such different backgrounds and cultures and all of our experiences are so different !
    We all have had some important people in life play a role in developing our interests towards reading and yes parents above all play the most significant and your views validly justify that. I am glad that you as a person learnt from your experiences how to strike that balance between reading being enjoyment as well as constructive. And I am sure you as a teacher will impart that to your students in a way they understand better and help them strike their own balance.

    Have a wonderful day.