Understanding the Meaning, Importance, and Power of Literacy

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Literacy: the ability to read and write. To young people this has little relevance in their life, just something that is forced upon them. Growing up in school, teachers in my life have wanted students to swallow and regurgitate information. As kids, most of us don’t understand the power of words that are necessary in order to successfully communicate; we find it to be tedious at best. Reading could be the worst preferred pass time and writing is solely done before work is due in class. This cycle continues for a period of time stunting ones’ ability to hear, to comprehend, to speak, and to read and write. I too was part of this faction until introduced to the wonders entwined within the words. There’s a time when the school system deems it necessary to build your character, bring about a unique way of thinking, to challenge and question your way of thinking. I have found that this period of time exists in high school. Taking my first high school English class allowed me to learn to develop the skills that allowed me to appreciate reading and writing as a whole.

Literacy went from being just the ability to read and write, to also being ones’ knowledge in one specific area. I began to see this change when my high school freshmen English class began. This start to new chapter in my life had brought me to my first experience involving European literature. In class we began with the play Oedipus. The first aspect of this play that we studied, involved the abstract vocabulary. Now I hear the term “vocabulary” and simply think of more words that I am forced to memorize. As the unit continued and we began to indulge deeper into the text, I began to grow an appreciation for the vast vocabulary that would go into my understanding of the play. I began to understand that words like balk meant refusing to move or act, and I even learned how to apply the word vexation with more ease. I learned words and diction that I had never had the experience of working with. I began to find myself using a wider range of vocabulary and I also found myself wanting to learn more. That English class allowed me to learn the appreciation of vocabulary which goes along with literacy. Once cannot become literate without learning words. Once a person is literate it is important that he or she, or in this case myself, learns to appreciate the literature that I have read.

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At first it felt like pure memorization but it transformed into a learning experience. As I progressed as a high school student, I began to understand that learning a text is important. I was able to apply the knowledge that I learned from Oedipus to other classes as well. Besides learning vocabulary, I was also assigned a number of analysis assignments. I had to break up certain scenes in the play and find the deeper meaning behind them. In doing these required analysis assignments, I was able to understand the play writer more and actually believe the reasons why each part of the play was included. These class tasks, taught me to look beyond the surface in each of the readings I was doing in my other classes as well. By the end of the play, I had obtained many skills that I was able to apply in other everyday class readings. Learning this analysis also brought frustration because I began to pick apart everything that I would read. This would sometimes take away the joy of reading and replace it with my curiosity of finding a deeper meaning in each text. I acquired the knowledge to not only memorize, but to analyze the readings that I was faced with. This one play, in that one English class, allowed me to be amore avid reader throughout my entire high school experience. This experience had a huge impact on my literate development because it forced me to not only better my reading and writing skills, but it also bettered my ability to understand what I was and still am reading and writing. As I began to use and apply these reading and analysis skills more in high school I started to notice a change in my writing. I began to use a higher level of vocabulary and I would find myself going back into my work and trying to change certain sentences so that they would flow well together.

Sophomore year I was told to find an essay that I had written in middle school, print it out and bring it to class the next day. I found a research paper that I had written on the Canterbury tales. I brought it to class and we were assigned to edit it into a piece that we would be confident enough to turn in as a high school paper. I started to re read the paper and began to realize the vast difference in my writing from middle school to high school. I was reading a piece that was bland, uneventful, and simply not impressive. Looking over my writing from middle school only helped me see how helpful that freshman English class had been. I edited the paper, changed around a lot of the wording, adding a lot of analysis, and simply made the paper better. My teacher read the past paper and then the newly formed one and was immensely impressed. Pre high school, my views on literacy consisted of only thinking that it had to do with reading and writing. As my high school career progressed I learned to appreciate that the word “literacy” meant much more. It means the comprehension and the analysis that goes along with reading. Not only does it have to do with reading, but writing as well. Learning to appreciate what literacy is has helped me become a stronger reader and more avid writer. Reading in high school, reading, not just skimming allowed me to learn how to be a student. Analysis is necessary for almost any college class. Learning to assess and analyze are skills that any student needs to do well. That one freshman English class stemmed my developmental writing and reading skills and made me into the student that I am today.

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Understanding the Meaning, Importance, and Power of Literacy. (2022, May 07). Retrieved from


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