Digital Exhibit: The Effects of (insert sponsor here) on Literacy
‘Did your parents read to you when you were a child?’ Asking this question of various people, I never received a simple yes or no response. Instead, every respondent launched into a story about her experience of learning to read. In trying to find suitable interviewees, my only criterion was that they had memories of their parents reading to them at least three nights a week. After the second interview, this standard expanded to include any memories loosely associated with someone influencing a narrator’s early literacy because I noticed that my narrators mentioned more literacy sponsors than parents alone.
I cannot make the claim that the narratives are completely free from Maynes’ idea of “circular reasoning” whereby the selection process is “based on prior knowledge that [the interviewees] seem to fit a pattern that the study is meant to demonstrate” (Maynes, 136). Four of the five narrators are personal acquaintances that had memories of their parents reading stories and thus, the metadata is reflectively homogenous: white females born between the years of 1991 or 1992 to middle class families. The fifth narrative, obtained from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives, provided evidence for the emerging themes already developed in the other four interviews. With that in mind, I acknowledge that the generalizations made from this analysis must be limited accordingly. Each time evidence from a new interviewee is presented, an introduction is interjected so as to enhance the credibility of each source. Any direct quotes taken from a narrative preserves the speech as much as possible to keep the style of the individual interview.
This project began with the simple theme of discussing how a parent reading to a child affects that child’s literacy, but eighty percent of the narrators discuss other influences on their schooling and affinity for reading in addition to their parents. For that reason, the more appropriate term ‘literacy sponsor’ clarifies that the people or things that contribute to eventual literacy can come from a variety of sources. By individually visiting each narrator, this exhibit explores the various literacy sponsors that can influence a person’s education and overall inclination towards learning. Of the five narrators, three explicitly discuss how they “learned how reading can be a joy in your life” as Erin states, and ultimately, these narratives describe the process of acquiring knowledge in positive tones. Each of these narrators continue to read as adults, which illustrates that literacy is not only about mastering reading and writing, but rather, figuring out how to enjoy learning. Reward a child with a prize, and they will hungrily repeat the same behavior. Reward a child with a few nice words, and they will perhaps develop good self-esteem. Teach a child the love of learning, and they will simply never stop rewarding themselves.