Prior to this year I had never really thought about how I would finish this sentence if I were asked to. I am afraid (and ashamed) to say I have taken my ability to read and write for granted for far too long. After all, it’s hard to remember exactly when or how I learned to read, and it’s far too easy for me to read mindlessly. So this year I have challenged myself to appreciate literacy on a whole new level.
In August, I was given the opportunity to work with America Reads through SCALE (Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education) UNC. I tutor local elementary school students two days a week and try to share with them my passion for reading, while strengthening their reading abilities. My bosses, coworkers, and tutees have opened my eyes to the importance of literacy and social justice. Additionally, this semester I am enrolled in two classes that share with me many perspectives and loads of information on these two ideas: Politics of Reading and Social Justice in Education. Although we’ve only had two weeks of class so far I know I will come out of these two courses with many new ideas and outlooks on education, reading, and social justice.
So, why literacy?
Well, first of all the ability to read is absolutely fundamental and necessary to thrive in today’s world. You have to be able to read road signs, medicine bottles, job applications, e-mails, legal documents, business names, and so on. But despite the fact that reading is important in these every day cases, literacy is so much more. Literacy opens a whole world of possibilities. Literacy allows us to connect with the world around us. And even further than this… it allows us to stand up for what we believe in.
So, what do I believe in?
Fairness and equality – terms we hear almost every day, actions we don’t see nearly enough. For the first 18 years of my life, I will admit I lived in a small town with a closed mind. I didn’t see the desperate need for social justice, fairness in education, and equal opportunities for everyone. However, when I came to Carolina I was slapped in the face with what we call “the real world.” I had lived in my little comfortable sphere without realizing what was really important. When I was placed in these local elementary schools, these words came to life for me. I saw where I was needed and what I could do, and I saw so many things that needed to be done that are not in my power. I want to be able to make a change. But where do I start?
I am so proud to say that my eyes have been opened more than ever this year and I am finally realizing what my purpose is. Even though I aspire to be a school counselor one day, I would never be able to reach this goal without the ability to read, write, fight for what I believe in, and have new experiences.
So to finish my sentence…
Literacy is important to be because it has allowed me to find my purpose.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you found out why.” – Mark Twain