Student Reflection: Literacy Narrative

The Assignment in the Peer Tutoring Practicum – “Literacy Narrative: This assignment is a chance for you to reflect on your own history as a reader and writer.  I would like you to produce a literacy narrative which is an accounting and reflection of your speaking, reading, and writing from the time of your first memory until today.”  Here’s one of the results.

Through the Years by Rachael Brenneman

I’m told that when I was a child I would memorize the lines in my favorite books as my parents read to me.  I would rush to say the words before my parents could, and I tricked them into thinking I could read.  I would demand the same books to be read over and over again, and in particular loved “The Mud Pony.”  Reading, subtracting the tricking my parents part, continued on that strain for the rest of my life; I never stopped reading, and I never want to.  Books, and writing and language in general, played an essential role in my development into who I am today, and I couldn’t be prouder of that fact.    

I reread books.  I read them over and over and over.  I read them until the pages are yellowed and the words have become old friends.  The same story never gets old, and my beautiful, daring characters always manage to triumph in the end.  I never use bookmarks, and I never lose my place.  If I read a book which isn’t mine and enjoy it enough, I go and buy myself a copy, just so I can read it again.  I used to sneak reading late into the night, and, when I would get a new book for a trip, my mother would make me swear to not read it until we actually started traveling.  I usually kept my promise.  I loved reading, and it grew even more when I realized that I could learn how to write my own stories.    

It didn’t take me long to transition from pure reading to writing as well, and I don’t clearly remember the first time I wrote a story or drafted a paper.  Even the physical act of writing I barely remember learning.  Though, I did miss out on learning the last half of the cursive alphabet, so that seems like it should count for something.  My progression to the written language was quick, and soon became something I enjoyed, both academic and creative.  I remember creating vast universes in my head and spending countless hours hammering them out in a way that made sense.  I would write in the back of my notebooks in class, on bulletins in church, and in journals at home.  When I traveled, I would always take a notebook to write my stories in, and if I forgot I scavenged until I found some scrap of paper to serve as a substitute.  

My thrill for writing continued up through junior year where it had to take a backseat to school work and literature, but senior year brought about literary analysis, and I found I was just as pulled into it as I had been to my stories.  “Till We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, and “Ariel” by Sylvia Plath leap to the forefront of my mind when I reflect back to my swift descent into the literary world.  I began to look through poetry anthologies and search for short stories, and, for the first time in my life, I began to actually look for the meaning in writing.  I didn’t admire and enjoy O’Connor’s work for the story.  I love it for her complex claims on the nature of grace and the human condition. “Ariel” drew me in for the multitude of ways Plath’s poetry could be interpreted and the reflection of her personal struggles through her work.  I had found that while I had read and written my whole life, I had never known the true message behind it.  I had never found its purpose: to mean something.  Writing, literature, and stories exist to convey meaning.  Writing is not meant to be because of writing’s sake.  Writing is meant to convey truths which the world is too unwilling or blind to see.

Writing and reading has become my standby, solid and always there for me to return to.  I don’t read as much as I would like at the moment, but I’ve been trying to get better at making time for the things that I enjoy this past year.  I can’t read as much or as 

consistently as I used to in years past, but I keep working toward expanding my ideas and knowledge of authors and works.  Writing, creative writing, has fallen a bit to the wayside as well.  For however untrained I am in the skill, I had never let that stop me from creating, but recently I’ve found it more difficult to write because I want it to mean something.  Before I began to understand what writing was meant to be, I wrote stories for their own sake and not for any greater purpose.  That method has it’s place and is welcome, but I’ve found myself wanting my creative writing to be deeper than surface level.  I want to be able to embody the spirit of a Valkyrie within the confines of a character, and I want to use the fog of moral ambiguity where it makes sense, not just because I want the scenery to be misty.  I want to be able to unlock the world which writing for hundreds of years has established and enter in.  I want to truly be able to be a part the world which I so admire.

A few days before college began I went back to “The Mud Pony” and I read it again as if for the first time.  What had once been a simple children’s story where my favorite part was the fact that someone had a horse, transformed into a statement of trust in one’s self and selflessness.  I finally understood a part of what the story was supposed to be all along.  Writing isn’t for the sake of putting words on a paper or stringing them along in sentences to find the most beautiful phrasing.  Writing and reading exist to remind us of what we would not have noticed or forgot to remember.  We need to remember what it means to mean something, and I won’t forget that soon, not when it’s taken me so long to realize.  Reading has long been part of my life, but only just recently have I actually been able to comprehend just what it means.  

Rachael Brenneman is a first-year Biology major from Harrisonburg, Virginia.