February 14, 2006

My Papers


Blake Frels
Engl 3741
Feb 1, 2006

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In my lifetime I have been very lucky with learning literacy skills. I was born and raised in the United States. During my childhood I was fortunate enough to have two parents with college degrees. They knew that in order for me to succeed in life that I would need to learn the necessary skills in reading and writing in order to better myself and my situation. Literacy came to me very easy. I was fortunate enough to have attended a catholic school for first though eighth grades. There I was given special attention in the developing of my literacy. I am truly blessed. People that grew up within the U.S. don’t know how lucky they are. There are thousands of people out there in the world that never have had a teacher to help them read and write. These people have never had a school system. These people never have had an opportunity to develop their skills of literacy. In the United States we are so lucky because we have the resources available to us to increase our literacy whenever we want. There are millions of people out there in different countries, even places within the United States, that have never had books available to them; they have never had teachers to teach and to make them learn. There are so many people out there who have had to do all of their literacy on their own. These people have had to work for the common literacy that we receive in the U.S. through our school system.

There was a time in my life when I did not feel literate. A friend talked me into going to Mexico with him one summer to fulfill our language requirements. This sounded like a great idea because it was half the amount of time and it was half the amount of money. The funny thing about all of this was that when I was in high school I took a Spanish class and the teacher had said that someday we would want to travel to a Spanish speaking-country and want to talk to the people in their native language; I sat there in class and went, “yea right, like I would ever want to leave this country.? Well that came around to bite me. Well, I thought, “it will be easy. I will live in Mexico with a family and learn Spanish with out problems.? We did not know what we were getting ourselves into. From the moment I stepped off of that airplane I knew that it was going to be a struggle.
Once off the airplane, we were greeted by our host family and taken to our new home. The only problem was that our host family did not speak the English language at all and we did not speak any Spanish. The car ride consisted of me looking up words in the dictionary and trying to form sentences which at that moment seemed like the right thing to do, but really we were just confusing our family. Every day in Mexico we went to school, learned a few more words and could say a few more phrases. Well this was extremely frustrating because there were three little kids that lived in the house and we would play with them, but we couldn’t communicate with them. I felt inferior to the little kids because they could speak the language and I knew nothing. I was unable to speak to the parents very much either. I felt like a little kid again. I felt like I should be treated like one too. It was one of the hardest times of my life. It was a time when I wanted to say and share so much, but was unable to no matter how hard I tried. It was a wonderful experience and I can relate this experience to my learning of literacy. I was a lucky person and was enabled a second chance to re-live my experience of learning a language. After living in a foreign land and trying to speak a foreign language, I now know how much time and effort it takes to learn a language. I watch and observe children as they struggle and learn words in English. I watch the children trying to achieve their first senses of literacy and can relate to each and every one of them through their struggles and confusion.

Our system of learning is improving year by year. There are many things today that the children have available to them that I never had. Even dating back ten years ago the literacy rate for grade-schoolers has steadily increased. I have a little cousin who is currently in the sixth grade. He started taking Spanish in school when he was in first grade. I am currently a Spanish teacher for an after school program and there are kindergarteners in my classroom. It is amazing what a few years will do to our literacy patterns and techniques for learning. All over the U.S. kids are learning different languages before they even learn English. It is astonishing what technology has done for literacy. My little cousin gets lots of homework every night. He has had lots of homework to do every night since the second grade. This is hard to believe because I don’t remember bringing home homework until 6th grade and even them it was a one day a week experience. With the changing of times and technology, comes the expansion of literacy and the capacity of obtaining literacy.

I think that there are also many other forms of literacy that are helpful besides books. I believe that the radio, television and video games all have a big impact within the U.S and almost everywhere. With the radio, we listen to talk shows, music or sports, but we are listening and comprehending what we are listening to. There are always new words that we hear and use that we never knew or used in that context before. In television we are observing many different images that we are able to incorporate with the sounds. On the television there is everything from Educational programs, to movies, to shows, sports, to building or shows on making handy products for usage. As we view the television we are using not only our literacy of understanding the language, but the literacy of understanding what pictures or symbols mean and what the signs indicate. This is great for our visual area where we are able to observe and gain a mental image to go along with what we are hearing. Another great tool is video games. Not only do these games involve and help us develop hand eye coordination, but they also help in the development of the literacy of following signs and directions while paying attention to detail. This form not only can teach children, but also adults. Developed here is the sense of the language and also the sense or instinct of knowing what to do next or figuring out puzzles based on sights and sounds. These are all key aspects that tie into the development of one’s literacy.

Literacy never stops. Everyday we learn new words, directions, ways of reading etc. In my lifetime creative reading and writing has not been a big influence until recently. It was when I declared being an English major and took some of the upper level classes. We read novels and I felt like I understood the whole story and all of the themes, but upon discussion I was wrong. This opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking. There are so many hidden themes and things that happen within most of our most important novels throughout history. There is so much knowledge out there in the world but it is not obtainable by everyone. It is obtainable to the few people who had been raised and disciplined with a great literacy background and resources.

Every day I am appreciative when I pick up a newspaper, start to read it and understand everything about it. This a something that a lot of people take for granted, but if I wasn’t born and raised in the U.S. who knows if I would have had this great gift of literacy and how to apply it. We are spoiled here and there are thousands of people that would kill for an opportunity to be in our shoes and learn the tools that we have learned and possess. These people are still trying. From my specific experiences with being around others and observing their behavior, I have learned that we abuse our literacy and take it for granted.

copyright - Blake Frels Feb 1, 2006

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