Friday, July 3, 2015

Maha Literacy History

RDLG 579
Literacy History Blog Response
Maha Qazi

I m currently living in Islamabad, Pakistan with my family. I have a small son, he’s 2 plus years old. At the moment, my parents and sister are looking after him while Im in Bangkok. Feel grateful to have such a great family and support. I grew up all over the world, as I am a foreign Office child. My father was in the foreign service, and we moved around whenever he got posted to different countries. He has always been an avid reader, and still is. I don’t know anyone else who reads as much as him.

My earliest childhood memory was seeing my father with a book. He was always carrying one or some place in the house reading one. I do have a fond memory, where I was about 6 years old and he was reading to my sister and me in Tokyo. It was a rather unusual experience because he was always busy working or reading, but a lovely father.
My mother used read to us and encourage me to write stories. I was praised for my writing and encouraged to write whatever came to my mind in a diary, like stories. It was actually something that motivated me and made me feel good as I was a shy child, and this form of communication helped me adapt to my new cultural surroundings while growing up and attending different schools.

One of the best things about having a diplomatic background while growing up was making new friends in different places and also being exposed to and meeting people of all walks of life, including writers and thinkers. One of my most memorable experiences was meeting Edward Said in New Delhi when he came over to our house in New Delhi, India, with Eqbal Ahmed, another intellectual giant and such a humble person. I felt in awe in such company but then also comfortable because they were so affable and down to earth about who they are.

We talked earlier in class today about our favorite book(s) and I see that while I have a love for detective novels of a certain genre, I also want to shift my focus to non-fiction. I like reading TIME or going National Geographic, with picture illustrations, as I love the outdoors and Nature.

As a teacher, I see how important it is to encourage young children to enjoy reading and for them to read books which they can read at their particular level to get something meaningful from it. Sometimes reading can just give us a sense of satisfaction by making a connection with a character and that in itself is meaningful. Books opens up a whole new world for one and that’s why I think coming from a country where the literacy rate is still so low, so many people have been deprived from a future of hope and opportunity. It is the one basic thing that everyone should have access to, if only to be able to pick up a book and read, or write something to feel empowered.

While teaching came to me quite recently, my appreciation for studies, reading, research and writing has been there from before. Now, it’s a daily routine but it’s about finding ways to engage students in a way that is meaningful to them through reading, writing and other creative ways of learning. I see how wonderful it can be to get involved in the process of learning through these mediums: reading and writing and that one’s cultural upbringing, exposure, and life experiences play a big part in quality education and also how we think about issues around us. Reading and writing are one of the most powerful ways to inform oneself about things. They also help us to think about different issues from a different lens, more nuanced and analytically.

Getting into the practice of reading should be adopted at a very young age, which my parents tried to instill in us but it came about mostly when we were ready. I wish the same for my son because reading and writing are such powerful tools that can take one a long way, and be a source of great comfort too.

Reading books by authors from different cultures, or educational books about different societies helps to open one’s mind to new ideas and concepts in our own field of education that we can learn a lot from and implement within the cultural context we live in. I am so fascinated by audio books and how reading in different forms today (thanks to technological development) is making reading much easier and accessible to different learners.


  1. Maha, what a great story you have! I am confident you will bring your passion about the importance of literacy into your classroom and that you will find lots of ways to inspire your students as your mother and father inspired you. I think this is important to keep in mind. As I read these bios over the years, it is always the family that has instilled the value of literacy learning. On a few occasions people will mention a teacher, but it is rare. I think it is important to remember this as we teaching reading and writing in the classroom. I think we should think about what made us inspired us and why it did. One of the most important things (and so simple) we can do as teachers in all grades is to read to kids. Reading aloud without any tasks associated other than discussion about what was read is probably the most powerful tool to motivate and inspire children to do the hard work of learning.

  2. From Kevin....I enjoyed your story. You seemed to have an exciting childhood? What different places did you live growing up? Did you notice different cultural attitudes towards literacy? I like how your mother encouraged you to write in addition to reading. I think parents often over look this or think it’s too difficult for children, but writing is such a valuable skill it’s great you were writing at a young age. Is this something that you continue today? Do you journal? I have kept journal on and off for the past 10 years and have found it a great process and reflection tool.

    That’s pretty cool that you were you able to meet people like Said and Shmed and actually had them in your home and could interact with them, such a great opportunity. Did meeting people like that motivate or encourage you when you were younger? You mentioned the low state of literacy in Packistan, How do you think improved Literacy would improve your home country, and if you had the funds to increase literacy how would you go about it?