Dancing and Cheering

26 Nov

In one of my masters courses I had to write about myself as a literate individual. This piece of writing ended up being very personal. It’s perhaps the piece I’m most proud of. I’m including large chunks of it here, but I won’t bore you with the whole paper. It’s kind of long, so if you don’t want to (or don’t have time to) read it all, just read the quote and first paragraph. I did a little dance after that first paragraph I was so happy with it. I cheer for books, and my own writing makes me dance sometimes; what can I say?

“Because sometimes I live in a hurricane of words

and not one of them can save me.

Your poems come in like a raft, logs tied together,

they float.”

~ from “You Know Who You Are” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Like hearing the first line of a well-loved song from the glory days of my adolescence, or the smell of my mother’s apple crumble wafting through the house as it bakes, a book that captivates me from beginning to end read in a comfy spot in the summer sun takes me back to a place in my childhood that will forever be engraved in my heart and mind. Reading something I choose to read for no other reason except that I want to read it while relaxing outdoors is one of the greatest indulgences I allow myself. It reminds me of lying on the rusty old hammock that hung between the two huge maple trees behind my grandparents’ lakeside cottage, getting lost in a book. I have so little time for pleasure reading that when I get time to do it I feel like I’m giving myself a treat. I can relate so easily to Nye’s poem that was written as a tribute to well-known American poet William Stafford. She feels like she is constantly barraged with words, but the comforting words of a well-loved poet can keep us afloat during the pressures of life’s storms. The reading I do for pleasure is my most valued literate practice, it sustains my soul.

I often read fiction to experience things that I would never otherwise be able to experience. With a good book I can become deaf, blind and mute and learn to be literate. I can be an orphan who teaches my new adoptive parents patience, love and laughter. I can be a serial killer who targets a specific demographic or the hot-shot detective that hunts him down. I can be a talking pig who takes over a farm. I can be a regular teenage girl who finds herself suddenly head over heals in love with a vampire. I can be a young star-crossed lover who commits suicide to eternally be with her lover, AND live to tell about it.

When it comes to what others are reading, I’m nosey. I’ll interrupt complete strangers in an airport to ask what they’re reading. Or, if I see someone reading I book I loved, a conversation must happen. I’ve experienced that literacy is social. I love to share my love for literature. I share what I love reading with my family, friends, colleague, students and online acquaintances. It gives me pleasure to introduce someone else to an author they end up loving, or a book that they go on to introduce others to. Living out my literacy means wanting to make connections around text both in my classroom and in my lifeworld.

Personally, connections are extremely important to me. I based many of my choices of text on the recommendations of other readers I trust. But, in order to grab, maintain and sustain my interest I must also connect to what I’m reading. The stronger the connections the easier it is for me to understand and enjoy what I’m reading. As I write this I’m reminded of the idea of Donald Murray’s that “writing is thinking”. I’m having an epiphany like reminder of the importance of connections for readers and writers alike. Personally, as a literate individual, I value reading and writing to which I make strong connections. It doesn’t mean my repertoire is limited to one or two genres or forms, but it means that I have a tendency to read and write to my own diverse and growing interests.

I value literacy that challenges my beliefs and expands my thinking. I often search for text to answer a question or help me solve a problem. As I’ve matured I’ve learned to value the reading I do for educational purposes, but this was not an innate practice. Even in this kind of reading, I must make connections. I must be permitted, no, I must be encouraged to highlight and write in the margins. I need to be able to “talk” back to the author as I read. I like to take what published authors have to say and use that to reframe my own ideas about similar topics. Although I love to write, I read much more than I write.

I’ve recently started to blog. Since childhood I’ve had a romantic notion of keeping a diary or journal. Maybe I thought something interesting would happen to me and my diaries would be published after my untimely death. But, journaling was something I just couldn’t seem to stick with. Since then, I’ve learned that the monotonies of my day are usually not worth writing about, and certainly would never be worth publishing. But, I’ve recently started to blog. I’ve learned to use those same monotonies to express myself through humor and to grab onto a small part of a conversation or something I noted or read and use it as a jumping off point to get my creativity flowing.

Now, I blog about personal goals, people I love, memories both funny and precious, the humor I find in life and I share my own creativity through art and poetry. Just as with my reading, the writing I do because I want to and because I use it as a form of self-expression is one of my most valued literate practices.

Technology has had a huge impact on me as a writer and is also beginning to impact the way I read. I write for various purposes, but most of it is not without the aid of technology. I write to communicate usually by email; I write to model for my students, through the use of technology; I blog, which allows me to self-publish through the aid of technology. All of my professional and educational writing is generated and kept digitally. Technology allows and encourages me to write more than I would ever write with pen and paper. It makes writing more enjoyable and seems less like tedious work. Yet, due to its limited availability at school, my students rarely use technology to produce their own writing for school.

As a reader, technology is creeping in and I cannot ignore its impact. Because I blog, I’m beginning to take an interest in the blogs of others. I link the blogs I read to the blog I’m writing.

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One Response to “Dancing and Cheering”

  1. Leanne November 29, 2010 at 12:44 PM #

    I can relate to this 100%! Love it! I’m dancing and cheering for you now, too!

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