Sunday, July 5, 2015

Yusef's Literacy History

Yusef Aziz
RDLG 579

Literacy History Assignment:
When did I first become literate?
Literacy is something that is complex and dynamic. Before I provide a history of my own literacy history, I feel it's important to define how I think of the word literacy. For me, literacy means the ability to read and write coherently, and the use of images, numbers and technology to effectively communicate. My literacy history began at home and was developed through primary school. I have vivid childhood memories of my mother reading me books before I went to bed. These stories resonated as the start of my literacy because I was beginning to internalize words and pictures; while making socially  comforting connections. Symbols played an important role in learning and developing literacy in my early childhood. "A" is for Apple, "Z" is for Zebra allows children to bridge connections. Learning the ABC song and associating the alphabet with a song is a fun and effective way to learn. I also enjoyed storytelling! Whether it was my mother, primary teachers or audio stories, I was fascinated by how the characters were developed through storytelling.
I'm not certain of the exact time that I first felt literate, I guess it would have been the time I was able to comprehend the text that I was reading. Expanding my vocabulary definitely aided my literacy. Learning activities that cross matched pictures with words was very effective. Using dictionaries and synonyms helped increased my vocabulary. Sports, in particular basketball also contributed to my literacy development. Through practices and games I developed vocabulary and learned to comprehend complex action strategies from my coaches. Because I was so passionate about basketball, it served as motivating subject to read and write about. I read a lot of sports magazines such as Slam Magazine and often chose to write about Basketball for papers in school.
During my secondary years of education, I did not read a lot of books. I completed a lot of book reports, but never read many books from beginning to end. The content of the textbooks and novels my teachers assigned did not motivate me. During my junior year of high school, I completed the Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley. This was the first book I actually enjoyed reading and I read it quite quickly too, which was surprising to me because I'm also not a fast reader. I tend to read at a slower pace to fully absorb content. I don't care for fictional novels, I prefer non-fictional text.
Writing was something that I was never great at. I have a strong and vivid imagination, but putting my thoughts to paper wasn't always easy. I like to write but even to this day writing with correct grammar is something that challenges me. I tend to write like I talk. Much of the basic grammar rules I get, but writing in correct tenses is definitely something I need to improve. Maybe it could be attributed to never having a strong passion for writing.
How do I feel about literacy today?
Today, literacy and being literate, affects me in many ways. We are living in an ever changing world, the impact of technology has changed the way we think of literacy. During my adolescence I would use pen and paper to complete and submit all of my school assignments. Literacy has changed a great deal since I was young. Now I can't do anything without my computer or Smartphone. A transitional technological switch from printed text to non-printed text is evident by the emergence of eBooks, Social Media and Blogs. I think about being a literate adult and my experiences with foreign languages. For example, for the last four years I have been studying Arabic. In Arabic the alphabet, grammar and boustrophedon are completely different from my native language (English). I am not very proficient speaking and understanding Arabic, but I can read and write. I can read words, but it's not very useful for me because I don't know the meaning of them. Therefore, I am still illiterate in Arabic. 
Higher education and professional experience has provided me with an opportunity to develop my literacy. Since my undergraduate studies the development of my speech, writing, reading, and research skills has tremendously improved. Having access to education through technology has also increased sponsorship on my literacy. After I graduated from high school I had general computer skills, but during the last decade I have used technology to research and learned things I never thought possible. As an educator, I obviously value the importance of literacy and see it as the bridge to higher education. I view students' literacy, like my own, as a constantly evolving process.


  1. Yusef, thank you for sharing this. I think you wrote something very important because it eloquently tells the story of many students in school today. They have an early passion for reading because of their experience in their homes with stories and books and school seems to dampen that joy. Book reports are especially notorious. I hope you get a chance to read Readicide. I think it will really resonate with you. Also your passion for anything basketball is similar to what many boys experience and the fact that you found ways to continue to read through the sport is fantastic. I hope teachers see this in their own students and encourage them to read through the interest as you did. Many times, we put a value on what is read and discourage kids from reading what they enjoy (i.e. Captain Underpants) but all reading is good reading. The sheer volume of reading is more important that the content. I would also like to point out that your writing is very clear, organized, and eloquent. I believe this is because of the reading you do - especially the nonfiction reading you do. I often tell my developmental literacy undergrads that I had to take a remedial writing course in college like them and that was in 1990. Since 1990 I had no training in writing but was able to write well enough through my Master's and my doctoral program to finally be able to write a dissertation. I attribute my ability to do that to all the reading I did. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. From Marci.....Nate’s phrase, “The illustrations were eye-catching enough to bring us inside” reflects a piqued curiosity that I would also like to evoke in my students. The enticing graphics of the front cover of graphic novels are what initially draws in a reader (or a potential reader) and ultimately yields deeper exploration. After today’s discussion about graphic novels, I too have gained a deeper appreciation for the medium in the context of Literature classes. The format, unlike traditional text, allows for the reader to infuse emotion and voices along with the pictures to make it feel like he or she is watching a movie. This provides an entry point for struggling readers daunted by traditional text, which punctures the affective filter, catching them off guard so that they accidentally find themselves immersed in the story and wanting more. This genre will definitely be added to my shelf of reading material that I plan to start in my classroom, along with magazines which cater to the interests of teens, thanks to Yusef’s suggestion!