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National Editorials & Columns

Taking a stroll down Memory Lane

The literacy of a nation depends on everyone, those with multiple educational degrees and those with none. A nation’s literacy strength is composed of all its people. Join me and take a literacy memory journey back into your childhood. How did your literacy role models help you develop into the reader and thinker you are today? Are you now a positive literacy role model for the children involved in your life.  If not, make changes that benefit you and future generations. 

How many literacy memories do you enjoy? Did you enjoy listening to stories sitting on the lap of mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, or another significant adult? Do you remember asking questions during the reading? Did you look at pictures and plead for re-reads? Did you feel the joy of the person reading to you? Do you remember taking turns reading with an adult? Do you remember the thrill of selecting a book with an adult at a library or bookstore regularly? Were you involved in choosing subscriptions to magazines and newspapers?

Keep on strolling through your literacy memories. Did you have a chance to read a book while lying in a hammock, or in a secret place, or under the bedcovers using a flashlight? Do you remember reading to your pet, your doll? Did you take reading material with you to read in the car, while on vacation, while going for a visit, etc.? Also, did those vacations include visits to museums and interesting historical sites?  

Did you read while you waited in a doctor’s office? Do you remember reading menus and getting to choose from the list? Did one of the significant adults in your life ask you to share what you were reading and in turn shared with you?  Do you remember discussing homework in a positive way with an adult in your home?  Do you remember receiving literacy gifts as a child?  Do you remember reading while you walked to the dinner table because the material was so interesting?    Do you remember reading as you fished or during breaks when swimming? 

Do you remember reading instructions with an adult and putting something together? Do you remember receiving a Reading Award in or out of school? Do you remember reading a radio or television guide with an adult and choosing programs together? Then do you remember watching a television show or movie or listening to a radio program and discussing it with a significant adult? Do you remember playing language games with adults at the dinner table or elsewhere? What about car games using road signs, license plates, etc.? Did you enjoy some writing memories? Do you remember writing and receiving notes and letters from adult family members and/or friends? Do you remember making lists with your parents? Do you remember writing a story for an adult and receiving praise, and perhaps having it displayed in a prominent place? Do you remember filling out those first forms that the school asked you to fill out and/or that first job application?

Very importantly, do you remember living in a literacy rich environment where books, newspapers, magazines, paper, pen, an office of your own were readily available?

Hopefully, sparks of literacy memories remind you of what you can do for others. If you aren’t already, become a Literacy Hero for a child or children in your life. If you aren’t privileged to have a child in your life, then make opportunities to contact children such as become a reading volunteer for story hour in your local school or library. RSVP is looking for Pen Pals for a classroom. What a wonderful way to touch children’s lives.

Remember literacy doesn’t just happen; those who are literate are to spread the word. Literacy tools for both adults and children grow rusty and less usable without reinforcing activities and encouragement. We are never too young or too old to develop our literacy. 

Part of literacy is expanding creativity. Creativity is a specialized type of thinking that incorporates many aspects of energy combinations. It makes the strange familiar or the familiar strange. It keeps our mind processing.

Our brain in survival mode classifieds, names, and makes meaning of our experiences. Creativity requires both stability and familiarity to satisfy our brain’s enormous curiosity and hunger for novelty, discovery, and challenge. Figures of speech such as metaphors and similes help expand our creativity.  They stretch our minds to see how unlike things are alike. They also help us see parts and wholes. Creativity is enhanced through imagination. Imagine you are something you can’t be — such as a circular saw and describe what you see and feel.  Imagine concepts — what is harder a rock or a harsh word. Make personal analogies. How would I look if I was a snowflake? When we use our mind to connect seemingly irrelevant thoughts and ideas, we begin to think outside the prison we create in our thinking. Creativity is a mind adventure which unlocks our imaginations, encouraging productive thinking, writing, and communication. It also provides an avenue for empathy and interpersonal understanding.

Reading aloud can’t really be overstressed as it provides unity of experiences and the written word. When we hear and connect what we hear to the written word, we begin to understand and construct rules of language without the pain of relearning. We build literal (understanding directly what the material says) and inferential (understanding what is hinted at) comprehension.

Much of this part of literacy is done before a formal type of teaching begins. These experiences and observations are the resources from which later the teacher begins to teach “reading.” No child comes to the teacher with a blank mind, but some children have the advantage of more exposure to literacy elements.

Sometimes a child is labeled slow, or struggles with reading because the adults in his/her life haven’t taken the time to show how literacy affects everyday life. Literacy is intellectual, but it is emotional and experiences are meant to be shared.

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 Until next week — Christine Pauley

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