Changing View of Literacy

When people ask me what writing course I’m taking (since I’m in the engineering school I only have to take one) and I tell them it is ‘Uses of Literacy’, their response is usually along the lines of, “The uses of literacy? There’re like two: reading and writing, right? How can you have an entire class on such as simple topic?”. Before this class, I would have probably said the same thing. But now, towards the end of things, I have a completely, utterly different view on this class, and literacy as a whole.

My question is this: How much has your understanding of literacy changed since you started this class, and in what ways have specific authors shaped your view of literacy throughout the course?

Types of Literacy: Where Do We Draw the Line?

In Dr. Vee’s article, she makes the argument that computer coding is a type of literacy in and of itself, much like reading or writing literacy. In a broader sense, she defines literacy to be, ” a human facility with a symbolic and infrastructural technology—such as a textual writing system—that can be used for creative, communicative and rhetorical purposes”. By this definition, computer coding is indeed literacy. Personally, I agree with her overall literacy definition as well as her stance on coding literacy.

However, defining literacy in such a way leaves some wiggle-room and ambiguity. By that definition, modes such as music, painting, and even emojis could technically be considered forms of literacy, though each of these has intrinsic differences in complexity and structure. What do you think? At what level of complexity do we draw the line between something being literacy and it being a mere task?

The Role of Parents and Culture in Developing Literacy

My father is a very religious man. He is of Irish descent, and as a child was steeped in Roman Catholic tradition and culture. A few years ago, we were both reading in the same room, and I glanced over to see what he was reading… As it turns out, it was the Bible. I was slightly surprised; sure, I knew my dad was religious, but to me the idea of wading through a religious work such as the Bible is a daunting, and generally undesirable, expenditure.

I was genuinely curious as to why he was reading through it, so I asked! His answer was simple; he enjoyed it. He likes reading through the Bible just as much as I like reading a novel by Crichton or King. This intrigued me… I wanted to understand where his love for reading such religious works came from. I inquired more, and he explained to me that he was primarily exposed to religious works from a very young age due to his upbringing. His parents impressed upon him the importance of religious (specifically Catholic) literacy, and consequently, he became an avid reader of such literary works.

I reflected upon what he had said for a while. In essence, the religious culture that my grandparents impressed upon my father sculpted his literary proclivities for the rest of his life. Thinking back to my younger years, I wonder if my love for books such as those written by Stephen King or Michael Crichton derives its genesis from my parents enforcing certain beliefs upon me, whether it is a love that I created on my own, or if it is a healthy mix of the two… But I suppose I never will truly know!

Literacy Memory

My literacy memory is actually from this past Christmas break. After a few days of lounging around at home doing absolutely nothing, I found myself craving to read any book other than a textbook. My younger brother was working his way through the ‘Eragon’ series for the first time, so I decided to revisit that series as well! The last time I had read through the ‘Eragon’ was six or seven years ago, so I was curious to see how I would experience it differently this time around.

After finishing the series, I noticed quite a few differences in how I perceived the books. During my first read-through, I distinctly remember encountering words that were not in my vocabulary, which I had to either look up or rely on context clues to figure out. This time, however, I was able to make my way through the entire series without any vocabulary stumbles. In addition, the manner in which the author, Christopher Paolini, wrote now seems somewhat bulky. I remember thinking that his language and sentence flow was phenomenal back when I was younger, but after being exposed to a much larger reserve of literature, I can see that Paolini’s writing style is far from impeccable.

These were just two of the many differences I noticed on my second read-through of this particular series. It astounded me to see how my perception of an entire set of books could be augmented in such a way over a period of only a few years. I think that this instance is a solid exemplar of how literacy evolves with us as we are exposed to more and more sources of literature. It also makes me wonder if I would experience other books from my younger years, e.g. the Harry Potter series, in a different fashion as well, or if this is just a singular, specific case…