Literacy experiences can be different for everyone. This drives many questions on how these experiences shape the way people approach writing a reading. Literacy Narratives which are personal stories about literacy experiences can help give an insight and try to answer these questions. Literacy experts such as James Paul Gee, Lesia Delpit, Deborah Brandt, and Kara Poe Alexander study literacy and have made many important findings in the field. Alexander for instance did a study on literacy narratives using groups of students and comparing and organizing their narratives to find answers to her questions. Alexanders research and methods are much like what is being done with the rising carin archive. The rising carin archive is an archive of first year college student’s literacy narratives. The archive is able to give a person a larger insight to the variety of experiences that people go through with literacy. The archive gives a researcher the chance to look through a large amount of essays to try to answer some of their questions. Initially reading the archive I came up with some questions that I tried to seek answers to. While reading stories my first time through the archive I wondered why experiences with literacy at home and in school were so different for people? I also wanted to figure out if people’s perspectives on literacy came from more than just past experiences. I strived to find my answers to these questions through more research by reading more narratives in the archive and considering the works a findings of the literacy experts.
When Reading the narratives for the first time I noticed right away that people’s experiences with literacy at home and in a schooling were drastically different. For the most part in people’s narratives reading and writing at home was a far more positive experience then at school. Trying to figure reasons out for this difference I went back to read some of the papers by the literacy experts. When I began to reread Gee and his work on Discourse I wondered if this Discourse had a role in the difference between literacy at home and at school. When Gee explains the concept of primary Discourse as “primary socialization early in life in the home and peer group acquire (at least) one initial Discourse. This initial Discourse which I call our primary Discourse”. Rereading this statement made me consider the fact that maybe the reason literacy at home and school are different because they require different Discourses. In the narratives narrators considered literacy at home to be very positive and by going off of what Gee said about Primary Discourse Literacy at home would be part of that primary Discourse the narrator is already fluent in. When attempting literacy at school it is a secondary Discourse they have to try to learn making it not as comfortable at first and some never even get to master.
Thinking about Discourse help me come up with an explanation for my second question of is their anything else besides past experiences at play to shape a person’s perspective on literacy? It was not until rereading Gee and his work on Discourse that I realized how big of a role Discourse plays in a person’s Literacy experiences shaping their views on literacy. Gee explains Discourse as “saying, doing, being valuing, believing combinations.”. Reading through the narrative in the archive after reading Gee it was easy for me to see different Discourses at play. In the literacy narrative called Fact I can’t read the narrator talks about her different experiences at home and in school reading and writing she writes “The first day of Kindergarten, nerves hit me as fast as I hit the mud when released from the inside. I was kind of like a wild animal now that I think about it. Kindergarten had been the first time I wouldn’t be outside all day long” In this qoute you can already see discourses conflicting and you can tell that literacy discourse at the school is going to be different then the literacy discourse that she experiences at home. In the rest of this narrative it is the narrator struggling between these two Discourses and in result has difficulty reading by the time she gets to college.
Literacy and Discourse go hand and hand they both influence each other so it makes sense that Discourse plays such a big role in these literacy narratives. Conflicting Discourses and different discourses that involve literacy can make literacy challenging for people