The pieces that we’ve read or are going to read in unit are examples of what we call literacy narratives. Literacy narratives are, essentially, significant personal stories about a literacy practice, such as reading and writing.
One might then ask: “What is the purpose of a telling such stories?” In “Storytelling for Oppositionists and Others: A Plea for Narrative,” Richard Delgado writes: “[S]tories, parables, chronicles, and narratives are powerful means for destroying mindset” (2413). Indeed, telling our stories can have a transformational effect—it allows us the opportunity to understand our past, to draw on those experiences that enrich us as writers and readers as well as to move beyond those that may limit us in this work. Examining our stories can help us move forward, to build on those stories as we better understand them. Moreover, there are also very practical reasons as to why honing our storytelling skills can prove to be useful in our lifetimes. For instance, Catherine Ramsdell in “Storytelling, Narration, and the ‘Who I Am’ Story” argues that storytelling is ever-present in the professional world. In fact, [s]torytelling can be a part of corporate training, public relations, politics, journalism” (Ramsdell 282).
And so, this project asks you to examine your relationship with reading and/or writing through storytelling. How have you become the reader and/or writer you are today? What are your attitudes toward reading and/or writing and when/how have you come to acquire them? Who encouraged (or discouraged) your interest in reading and/or writing and what are its lasting effects? When did you acquire your mindset about reading and/or writing?
You may approach this project in any way you like, and you may focus your story on one or two events from a specific period of time or you might use several events from a longer period of time. The one requirement is that it centers on your relationship with reading and/or writing.
In drafting your narrative (story), make sure that you:
Make some overall point about your writing and/or reading experiences
Provide vivid details. Details such sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and dialogue can bring a narrative to life and can help readers picture places, people, and events as you experienced them.
Make connections. It is not enough to merely say what happens. You, the writer, must help your readers make connections and/or conclusions about the things that happened in your story.
Consider your audience**: Are your readers likely to have had similar experiences? Would they tell similar stories? How much explaining will you have to do to help them understand your narrative? Can you assume that they will share your attitudes toward your story, or will you have to work at making them see your perspective? How much about your life are you willing to share with this audience? [from the Norton Field Guide to Writing]
Draw on class readings and other sources to support your claims whenever necessary.
Organize your story so that your readers can follow along without having to figure out where you are going.
Take the time to polish and edit your story so that your readers understand what you are discussing and is not distracted.
**You may direct this piece to an audience of your choosing.
Malcolm X argues that awareness gives power and purpose. And so, the more you know about yourself as a reader and writer, the more control you are likely to have over these processes. Equally importantly, learning how to tell a good story is also a useful skill in/outside of academia.
Begin by mining your memories: Try to get at what your memories and feelings about reading and writing are. “I really love to read!” “I don’t feel so confident with my writing abilities.” “Mrs. Miller changed my mind about reading!” You may even trace a couple of them to their origins. For example, you may remember hearing your older sister reading to you or asking your grandfather to tell you a story. You might remember drawing a picture story about your cat or dog or making a valentine for your mother.
Next, review the readings for this particular unit. How do Sherman Alexie, Sandra Cisneros, and Lucas Pasqualin tell their stories and what ideas or writing techniques might be useful for you in telling your story?
Then, decide on a particular focus or point that you want to make about your relationship to reading and writing.
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