Literacy can have many definitions depending on the person who you talk to and what their experiences are. This gives us all an abstract and often incomplete idea of what literacy truly is. I have struggled with the idea of literacy, and what it means for me. I think about the struggles many people go through, attempting to read, form words, and create ideas with meaning, and I am grateful that I have unrestricted access to words and language. Originally, my idea of literacy was simply the ability to read write, and speak fluently. Now, as a senior in high school, I have acquired a different definition.
One that has more insight as to what one must go through to be considered literate. I grew up on a ranch outside of a small town, and as a result, I am more comfortable when not around people. However, I had almost unrestricted access to books and would read as often as I could. My mom recalls when I was only two years old I would stand on the couch and recite my ABC’s, and always beg her to read to me. By the time I was three years old, I could read children’s’ books by myself, and by the time I was in kindergarten, I would read third grade books.
By the time I was in the third grade, I had read all of the books in the school library and wanted more. Granted, as I was in a private, Christian school, the library wasn’t very big, but it was a huge accomplishment to me at the time. Language and the literal definition of literacy came very easily to me, and I was making huge gains on becoming a literate member of society. As I got to the 6th grade, I transferred to the public school in Carrizo Springs. I was super excited because I would have access to a larger library, and I would have an almost endless supply of books.
But even that didn’t last long, because I made quick work of all of the books that I deemed interesting. I had the highest word count all three years of junior high and was even in the principal’s book club. When I got into high school, sports and other activities took the bulk of my time and I stopped reading as much. Sometimes | still get on a reading kick and ignore the world around be for days at a time when I read, but I just don’t have as much time to read as I would like.
Another reason for my slowed reading is that the junior high and high school’s libraries are very similar and I have run out of books that I find interesting to read. Therefore when we do get new books in the library I try to be the first in line to read them because I truly enjoy reading and want to expand my vocabulary. An organization that has helped me work my way towards being literate would be 4-H. This organization is known mostly for its involvement with animals and stock show, however it has much more than that.
From Clothing and Textiles, to Food and Nutrition, Photography, Shooting Sports, and many more, 4-H has an activity and opportunity for anyone. These activities have improved my public speaking and have taught me how to memorize information on short notice. The two projects that I am consistently involved in that helped me improve my language skills are Food and Nutrition and Clothing and Textiles. These two projects involve a lot of knowledge. Food and Nutrition is a project that focuses on nutrition in food and how different foods affect your body.
During the meetings for Food and Nutrition, as a leader I must give presentations on the My Plate food guide, the different food groups, the nutrients in the food groups, and how they affect your body. Having to give these presentations has improved my use of language. Food and Nutrition also has its own district and state competition, which I have participated in. At these competitions, you must make a dish and gather information about the nutrients the dish provides. Then you must present this information in the form of a speech in front of a panel of judges. This also allows one to increase.
Clothing and Textiles requires making or buying an outfit to model in front of judges. Then you must gather information about the cost of the outfit, the fiber content and weave, and information about what you have done through the project. Then at district and state competition, you answer questions about your outfit to a panel of judges. This improves my language and speaking skills. My definition of literacy when I was young was just simply being able to read or write, though lately I am considering awareness of the world around you in the definition of literacy.
This goes beyond its book definition because like many other words and ideas, it has grown past its literal definition. A large reason why | am considering awareness of the world and consideration of others in the definition of literacy, is because many people are not aware of what is actually going on in the world and they make fools of themselves when trying to include themselves in conversations about the world. This makes them look illiterate and makes many people angry. While 4-H has many opportunities through projects, the average 4-H member does about nine community service projects a month.
Some of these are geared towards people in the battered women’s shelter, while others focus on children or families in need of food and clothes. These projects show us just how many people are in need in our own communities, that may not have the same education opportunities that we have been given. They also teach us much about being aware of the world and how many people have been through different experiences and we should have empathy for them. A reason I believe empathy is an extension of the definition of literacy, is because empathy requires you to look at a situation that someone is in, and apply it to your own life.
If a person does not have empathy, they can ineffectively use language and offend a person, make a fool of themselves or both. Sympathy is also something I consider an extension of literacy, in very much the same sense as empathy. Sympathy is when you feel the same pain the other person feels and it affects your feelings in very much the same way. I feel that this is an extension of literacy because it can make a person appear rude to no sympathize with someone who is going through a hard time or a rough situation.
Another quality that | feel goes along with literacy is simply world awareness. If a person is not aware of the events going on around the world or simply around the country, they will have a hard time convincing people you are literate, because you do not have experience with conversations about world events and can offer ideas or opinions that are ignorant or incoherent. A pet peeve of mine is actually when someone believes they can enter a conversation without proper perspective and tries to convince the people around them that they know what they are talking about.
This causes them to look like an uninformed and rude person, which in turn angers the people who were attempting to have a literate and intelligent conversation. Having a complete personal definition of literacy is difficult because you can take the definition from so many different skills and characteristics. Knowing this, many people will have different definitions of literacy. I personally have a very specific definition of literacy that many people might deem as too specific. I however, consider these to be very important because they include a lot of character traits.
In conclusion, my personal definition of literacy includes not only the ability to read, write, and speak fluently, but also requires a person to have empathy, sympathy, and awareness of their surroundings and the world. These qualities show a person’s true intellect and literacy because many people who lack these qualities can make themselves look illiterate when they attempt to engage in conversation with people who do possess these qualities. Therefore literacy can involve more than just language and it is important that people find a definition of their own.