This is part of a Literacy Autobiography I wrote in one of Susan Lytle’s classes in graduate school. I couldn’t help making a couple of small edits… Thanks for such meaningful assignments Susan!
One of my earliest recollections of the idea of reading was a conversation I had with my father. He was sitting in our living room absorbed in a book while I grew more and more frustrated by his indifference to my presence. Something started a conversation between us. I remember him telling me about how much he loved reading and how he viewed it as a way to learn about other worlds.
This idea of reading as a means of accessing information continued in school where my experiences of learning to read were not very memorable. School culture was not very different from my home culture. I was able to speak in school as I did at home. I became a very proficient reader at a young age. While I can remember struggling with words and receiving help as a young reader, I do not have recollections of struggling with texts and being taught to question meaning or perspective. This leads me to believe that from an early point there was an emphasis on the skills needed to read the words of a text but not on the analysis involved in order to critically read and question the underlying belief system behind a text.
I was encouraged to write creatively at all levels of elementary school. I remember being brought out to a field behind our school and told to write from the perspective of a grasshopper. Classes often required that I kept journals. I received a lot of personal attention and had a consistent feeling that my writing and creativity were important. I enjoyed writing so much that I consistently wrote out of school and had the career goal of being a writer.
Throughout all of my elementary and high school years I do not remember a text being used to question the underlying values of society in such a way that my own view of the world was deeply changed. The closest we came to questioning the structure of society was reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and speaking of the injustices that were faced by factory workers during industrialization. However, there was no connection made to present day realities or modern day oppressions.
By the end of high school I was searching for answers. I felt claustrophobic in such a homogenous environment and felt a need to meet people who were different from me. Now I see this as a response to the contradiction between the way I was taught and the reality of the larger world around me. I feel that experiences that exposed me to social injustice led to confusion because I had not learned anything that would explain these inequalities that most people I knew seemed to ignore. The underlying message that accompanied my learning was although there had been problems in the past, now society was fine and there was no need to inquire into the nature of the present day reality.