Sample English Essay on My Literacy Journey

My Literacy Journey

The views that an individual holds on literacy, what one writes or reads is to a large extent shaped by the prior experiences that the individual is exposed to as she matures. These experiences form a foundation upon which an individual builds her literary outlook. Therefore to understand an individual’s literary outlook, it is necessary to look into the past and delve into the events and milestones that have helped to shape the individual’s present writing style and reading preferences. My literacy journey has been long and eventful, with many different influences that have shaped my reading preferences, writing style as well as the literary opinions that I hold. This essay shall look at the experiential history that has helped to shape me into the literary person that I am today.

Reading and writing are co-dependent, and one cannot possibly know one and fail to know the other, although what comes first remains debatable. Some scholars argue that teaching writing before reading makes individuals learn better, even though one basically must be able to recognize symbols that represent a language before one can write them. Irrespective of the order in which writing and reading come, literary development requires that individuals be proficient in the art of reading and writing before they can develop any form of literary appreciation. Reading and writing are skills that are generally developed in the formative years of an individual, either in the formal settings of a class or informal settings of home learning. It is a gradual process in which the individual learns the complexities of a language with time as her vocabulary expands, and she develops a better appreciation of the rules governing a language, and the nuances inherent in the spoken word. Literary appreciation is a function of the literary texts that an individual is exposed to as she grows up because through the literature she reads, she picks up ideas and mannerisms that are later reflected in her style of writing as well as the choice of literature she adopts later in life.

My earliest reading memories are from the bedside stories that my parents used to read to me before I slept every night, which usually came from picture story books, and helped me to begin to understand the art of reading by combining the abundant visuals with words. I was therefore able to read some words early by recognizing their shape and color. At our house, my parents had also bought some picture charts with the alphabet containing pictures of common objects that began with each letter of the alphabet. My mother could then take me through the chart reading to me aloud as I repeated back to her what I had heard. I was thus able to master the alphabet before I joined school to begin my formal learning. I also learnt how to read numbers through the use of charts and the help of my parents who will patiently take me through the numbers until I was fairly proficient in reading them.

My parents were not very keen in teaching me how to write as a young child, although they would give me a pen and paper and encourage me to doodle whatever I wanted without any restriction or guidance. In addition, I had a set of crayons that I was allowed to play with in an attempt to color various objects. Although my early attempts at writing were laissez faire in nature, I belief that by letting me have freedom with the pen and paper, my parents helped me to develop dexterity and motor control which was later useful in helping me master the art of writing quickly

I seriously began to master the art of learning and reading when I formally joined school and was exposed to conditions, which made the need to master reading and writing mandatory. At school I experienced a systemized approach to reading and writing, tackling structured tasks geared towards equipping me with a specific skill. At school, I found reading fun and interesting majorly because my first teacher had a way of making the words alive, making us enjoy listening to her as she read to us and showed us how different words were pronounced. Although the importance of reading was admittedly fuzzy at a young age, I felt that I needed to know how to read so that I could also make sense of the small print that I saw in books which our teacher could read to us. Some of the stories read to us were so interesting that I felt that I needed to know how to read so that I could read for myself without having to wait for the teacher. In addition, knowing how to read helped one earn credits from the teacher with the possibility of getting a present or having the honor of leading the class through a reading lesson.

The importance I attached to reading at this point was prosaic, and my attitude towards reading changed eventually as I matured. What I enjoyed about reading is the chance to encounter new words and figure out their meaning. I made it a habit, when I knew how to read to find new words and determine their meaning contextually before checking in the dictionary to find if my inferred meaning was correct. To satiate my passion for learning new words and finding their meanings, I asked my parents to buy me a dictionary, which was useful in expanding my vocabulary. Often in my free time, I could just peruse through the dictionary to find quirky words and their meanings. However, reading initially had its frustrations for me, especially when it came to figuring out the right pronunciations. I learned that words are often not pronounced as they appear and that a word’s meaning can change depending on how it is inflected during reading, implying that one had to know the different meanings of a word if the word is to be used properly.

I had an intense interest in reading fictional story books in my primary school as a way of expanding my vocabulary and improving the way I used language to express myself, whether in writing or in spoken. Most of my reading at this time was restricted to small fictional books, with my favorite books during this period being the Nancy Drew Mystery Series of books published by various authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. I loved the way Nancy is depicted in the books and could imagine myself transported into a world of drama, adventure and danger just like the heroine in the series. The school’s book club, which was formed to supplement the school library, was a valuable resource in helping me obtain fictional story books for reading from like-minded school mates. The books had a strong influence on my later literary outlook because I have prevalence for works of fiction as opposed to non-fictional works. One of the most interesting books that I have read was William Morris’ The Well at the World’s End that captivated my imagination with the quaint old English that the author invented for the book as well as the narration within. This is just one of many books that I have read as I have grown, with majority of the books being my own choices though some have been assigned class texts.

My reading taste has expanded over the years and although I still have a preference for fictional works, I have read some non-fictional works which have had a profound effect on my life. I have had an interest in some of the people who have had an undeniable influence in the affairs of the world, changing the course of history and opening new possibilities for those who follow(ed) them. I read the autobiographies of Martin Luther King Junior and Nelson Mandela, two men whose contribution to the amelioration of the human condition cannot be disputed and found them compelling reads. The importance I attach to reading has evolved over the years and currently I read as a means of expanding my horizons and being informed. Reading has helped to shape my views about the world and its different cultures because through reading I have been able to meet the world in my living room and developed a better appreciation of the differences that exist between different cultures.

Currently, my reading preference is mainly eclectic and I have expanded my reading list beyond fictional works that were previously my forte. This change in preference has been gradual, mainly informed by the realization that non-fictional works have a critical role in expanding a person’s understanding of the world she lives, in addition to helping shape the formation of informed opinions. My change in reading preference was precipitated by a conversation I had with some college friends that happened by serendipity. In the course of our general conversation, I could see that some of my friends had a markedly different approach to issues and could raise different possibilities even in instances I thought possibilities did not exist. I figured that their broad horizons when considering issues were due to a more extensive reading list and hence resolved that I had to broaden my interest in reading beyond fictional works to include a more cerebral selection. Being in college has also helped to broaden my thinking horizons because of exposure to not only the course material but also my lecturers and course mates. The interaction that I have had in college has been instrumental in helping to enrich my literary appreciation perspective. My language lecturers have been especially important in helping to change my attitude towards reading, influencing the kind of books that I am more likely to read. I have felt challenged to think out of the box and increase my repertoire of literary knowledge, something that I can only mange through extensive reading.

Compared to my reading skills which are relatively excellent, my writing skills are not nearly as well developed as my reading skills. I learnt to write after I formally joined school, but after struggling to get around the concept of lower and upper case and the changes it brought on the letters. However, I eventually became proficient in writing and my earliest memory of writing is of the homework we were given to try and master the letters and numbers learnt at school. I have long associated writing with assessment because most of the writing that I have done is geared towards fulfilling some academic function, be it taking notes in class, doing homework or sitting for assessment tests or examinations. Consequently, writing has not been a fun experience but has been mainly utilitarian with a mainly academic goal at the end of most of my writing experiences. My biggest problems in writing initially were caused by problems with punctuation and spelling mistakes as I struggled to write the correct spellings of the words that I was using.

Later, the biggest problem I experienced was putting my thoughts into words accurately to convey exactly what I felt. This problem was mainly caused by my then limited vocabulary, although this significantly improved after I expanded my vocabulary range. I have given some thought to what my writing style is likely to be and I think that my style is rather dry and academic in nature. This I believe is a consequence of my association of writing to assessment hence whenever writing I tend to be overly formal to reflect the fact that most of the writing I have done so far is meant for academic purposes. I have a passion for children stories, probably because of the variety of stories I was exposed to as I grew by my parents as well as the ones I read for myself as a youngster and plan to try my hand in authoring children’s books having prepared some outlines that I believe I can use to develop a children’s story.

My interest in writing children’s books has been reinvigorated by the recent success of some children’s books that have become international bestsellers in addition to being adapted into screenplays. An apt example is the Harry Porter series of books that have been a massive success with not only children but also adult audiences that were adapted into well grossing movies. There is a market for children’s books and it is incumbent upon those with the interest to turn that interest into concrete ideas that can be put out in the market place. Despite this, I believe that I need to hone my skills in writing before I can turn the ideas that I have into books that can captivate the audience and grab a share of the market.

My writing and reading experiences have helped to shape me into the reader and writer that I am today, considering that initially most of my reading was for fun and a way through which I could escape and get lost in the worlds that are to be found between the pages of books. However, as I have grown, circumstances have forced me to widen my reading list to include cerebral works by ‘serious’ authors. My reading and writing are now conflating to a common thread of ‘seriousness’ and academic orientation, with my carefree approach to reading replaced by a measured and cerebral approach to selection of reading material. Whether this change in reading habits is a good thing for my development as an aspiring author is a topic for another day.