My Lit J

Posted: May 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

I began this semester with strong beliefs about literacy that have not drastically changed, but I now have a much deeper understanding of literacy theory. At the beginning of the semester, I held the belief that motivation is extremely important. Without motivation, students can eventually stop reading altogether, as some of my adult reading students have done. One of my students said to me this semester, “It’s not that we don’t read. It’s that we don’t read what you all make us read.” She is in the lowest level reading course the community college offers, wants to be a lawyer, and has already bought a reading program for her four-month-old son. Most students do desire to be successful, but when they are presented with texts that they cannot relate to, reading becomes tedious and students lose interest. After learning about different reading models during the semester, I questioned why some models, such as the automaticity model, did not address motivation.

Throughout the semester, I also developed a better understanding of what comprehension is. When completing Kucer’s literacy beliefs profile at the beginning of the semester, I strongly agreed that comprehension involves getting the author’s intended meaning from the text. I already realized that students may pick up different aspects of a text, but I didn’t give a lot of consideration to the idea that each person is working with his or her individual schema. Background knowledge or lack thereof is a contributing factor that should be acknowledged when selecting texts for students.

The sociocultural, socio-psycholinguistic, and critical reading models all recognize student interest as being important. Interest and background knowledge are intertwined because without being given an opportunity to develop background knowledge, a student will have a very difficult time developing an interest in the reading. If students continuously read texts that they do not find interesting, they may not develop a lifelong love for reading and may always view reading as a burden rather than an enjoyable and empowering experience. One major challenge that I was able to observe through listening to the elementary school teachers in the class is that many school curriculums do not consider students’ interests, and many teachers do not have the authority to alter the curriculum. If teachers do not have any control over the curriculum they teach, engaging students in interesting reading material becomes a major challenge.

My beliefs about literacy acquisition have been confirmed and in some cases slightly altered throughout this semester. After learning about the different reading models, I understand how important tapping into students’ funds of knowledge is. For example, I taught a student this semester who said he never read novels, but he read auto mechanic manuals. When I gave him the opportunity to select his own readings during lab, he found articles on scrap metal and other topics related to his job, and he enjoyed explaining them to me. Kucer defines literacy as a social practice and gives examples of many different types of literacy. I learned how important it is for students to realize that reading an automobile manual is a literacy event. Valuing and encouraging students’ interests will encourage them to engage and take risks while reading.

Currently, I believe that students’ interests and funds of knowledge must be determined in order to create a stimulating reading environment. I also believe that each student will comprehend a text in a slightly different way because each student brings different background knowledge to the reading experience, so there is no one correct interpretation of a text. Lastly, I strongly believe that teachers must have some control over the reading materials that are available for their students. All students should be given the opportunity to read real books of their choice, rather than only reading isolated sentences and passages in basal readers.

Some of my students from last semester working together.

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