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Although I do not have many vivid memories of my childhood the few things I do recall from my early years mostly seem to focus around school and my academics and interactions with children my own age. It is nearly impossible to pinpoint when exactly it was that I began to read but it must have been somewhere around the end of kindergarten and the beginning of first grade. I didn’t attend preschool so up until kindergarten my primary interaction with others was in my first language, Spanish.
I can recall learning the alphabet and the sounds of all letters and I started to make out certain words like ‘see’ and ‘my’.
The most influential person in the process of acquiring the skills I needed to read must have been an instructional assistant, Mr. Torres who would help me and other bilingual students regularly in the classroom. Of course the instruction by my teacher set the basis for my learning but the one on one help that he provided helped me make connections to my learning in Spanish and that made me feel very comfortable.
The first books I began to read must have been simple stories that I came to memorize.
Stories like The Gingerbread Man or Brown Bear that had repetitive lines were probably how I started to make connections with words, sounds and pronunciation of those words and sounds. Learning to read made me feel empowered and I remember wanting to read “big kids” books once I felt I was capable.
Among my favorite types of books were scary chapter books like the series of Goosebumps as well as biographies of famous athletes. Among my least favorite must have been nonfiction and folktale because they never really managed to pull me in and I was always very skeptical about such fantasy.
Unfortunately, this thrive to read did not last very long because I started to drift away from the constant practice of reading around the fifth grade and started seeing it more as an obligation rather than a choice. As a whole the literacy environment in my household was actually a very positive one and ever since I can recall my mom has always been a big reader and has many books and magazines throughout the house. All of her reading though was done in Spanish when I was growing up because as I was learning how to read my mom was learning the English language. My dad on the other hand has never been a big reader.
Actually I can’t recall a time when I have seen him sit down and read something simply for leisure. I also had an older sister who was just a grade ahead of me in school and she has always been a bit of a bookworm and was constantly going through different books as we grew up. Even with all these things I think the language barrier influenced my detachment from reading. In my household we rarely spoke English, maybe if my mom and dad knew the language or were more comfortable with it they might have pushed me to read more or took the time to sit down and read to me.
Come to think of it my mom would read to me but she would do it in Spanish and it was a bit boring for me. She would read common stories that I had already heard like the three little pigs or something of that sort and all I would gain out of this was amusement because the way things translated to me was funny. My mom did take us to the city Library and I remember going to story time or to some sort of show based on books. I remember seeing a magician and also petting a snake. As for having materials to read and write, there was always plenty throughout my house.
My mom kept a full stock of pencil and paper as well as of books it was just a matter of me doing the actual work. She constantly asked me to explain to her what I was reading or writing for school but I always seemed to find a way to not spend too much time with it because all I wanted to do was play with the neighborhood kids or run off to soccer practice. In school the literacy environment was very positive as well and I remember how much time and dedication the faculty would place on reading and the development of reading skills. I can’t remember who formally taught me how to read but it must have been either Mrs.
Diamond or Miss Falgot my first and second grade teachers, because by third grade I remember being able to read fluently. They used several different types of methods but I remember being read to very often by Miss Falgot. I do recall being placed in groups and having partners whom you read to and vice versa. I believe both Mrs. Diamond and Miss Falgot were key role players in my acquisition of reading skills and although I don’t recall specifics they did their job because by third grade I was at the top of my class. I do remember a particular case that had a bit of a negative effect on me in terms of reading.
I remember being in either fourth or fifth grade reading as a class and the teacher called on me to read a paragraph. I don’t remember what I was thinking but I was not listening and wasn’t even on the right page, once I located it I got nervous and couldn’t even read. Luckily the teacher called on someone else but I felt horrible. As a class throughout elementary I remember visiting the library and running to the sport books section. The Library was so calm and always cool and I remembering going in there on hot summer days to get away and read a good book.
The librarian I remember was always very sweet and she was very patient with all the students. As for literacy events the only thing that is clear in my mind is the book fairs that occurred maybe twice or three times a year. They were very fun and I remember they made even the boring books seem interesting. They set up all kinds of posters and it was something that I always looked forward to. As an adult I began to pick up old habits especially after I came into college. I can’t say I read a lot but I do find time to fit in a book every once in a while.
I am still a big fan of autobiographies and I have recently developed a liking for books in Spanish. I usually read on the weekends when I am well rested and have slept in. I also like to go to parks and sit in the shade and enjoy a good book or story or even an interesting article. I think reading is very important and not only to help us expand our vocabulary or help us academically but when you read a good book you get a chance to escape your everyday and it gives you an insight into a story or a character in the way a TV or radio cannot.
It captivates you and manages to get all of your attention but at the same time relaxes you. I think reading is something that should be taught to students but not just in order to help them academically but educators should also focus on showing the importance of literature in our lives and the positive way it influences our lives down the road something the media of today cannot manage to do. Writing equally should be not only taught for the purpose of education but in a way those students value it and continue to practice it even without a teacher pushing them to do so.
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