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Literacy Vignettes

William Mileham
UWRT 1103-045
Emilia Grant

Literacy is most commonly defined as a persons ability to read and write, though some
say it is in fact more than that. I personally consider myself a literate person, Ive been reading at
what is considered a college level since middle school, and I scored a perfect score on the
reading section of the SAT. When it comes to the competition of peoples definition of literacy
however, I remain consistently neutral. While I believe that the knowledge of reading and
writing is needed to succeed in the world, I otherwise dont care about the minimum reading
level required by the government or that one person is considered more or less literate than
anyone else. Everyone can treat literacy in any way they want and I will feel the same as I
always do, wishing there were more time in each day for reading.
My earliest memory of literacy with an icon of a generation: Harry Potter. I wasnt born
when the first book was published but as far back as I can remember, every night ended the same
way, me and my older brother in our bunk beds, listening to my mom reading us Harry Potter
and the Sorcerers Stone or Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Every day would go on and
on and then end with characters from and stories about places that arent. My mom would make
voices for the interesting characters, and half the time each night would be complaining about
this characters voice, or how she said that line, and almost half of each book was repeated. And
while each character got a voice, the most memorable of them all was my moms voice for
Dobby. A high pitched squeal that quite possibly could have attracted dogs made most of the
second book highly hilarious. I believe this is one of two things that helped develop my intense
need to read books, the second being my fathers own such feelings. By the time the fourth Harry
Potter book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, rolled around I was of the age to read it myself.
At that time I had already read the three other books by myself and was looking forward for
months for the next one to come out, so I could do the same. I didnt merely read it though, I

devoured it. Page after page, chapter after chapter, I took every minute I could to read a little bit
more, as I did every good book. I wasnt even five at that point. Even at that age, books were a
lifeline to me. Whether they were short little books like The Magic Tree House series or longer
one like Harry Potter I took in every piece of literature I could get my hands on (and understand).
And when I say lifeline I mean it quite literally, I lived in a neighborhood, more of a street really,
on which at that time my older brother and I were the only children of any age that lived there.
My brother and I were close, but he didnt always want to play, and he loved books as much as I
did, which means both of us spent quite a bit of time quietly in our rooms, digesting one book or
another. This became incredibly annoying when we both wanted to read a book, because my
parents believed, rightly so, that buying more than one copy of a book was a waste of money, so
we had to take turns. It always seemed to me that my brother got the first turn with a book, and I
was stuck with waiting for him to finish. Even then I read slightly faster than him, meaning I
would get quite bored waiting for him to finish the book, leading me to read other books. This in
turn both made me more anxious for my brother to finish, especially when the fifth Harry Potter
book came out, and subsequently made me love books that much more. So in every sense, the
Harry Potter series was both the beginning and the driving force for my intense love, lust even,
for books.
My first contact with the idea of literacy began with AR, Advanced Reading, a
program in which points were gained from reading books and taking short quizzes about each
book. The school I originally went to had small rewards that we got for making a certain amount
of points, but we had a minimum required number of points we needed each year. They allowed
a student to retake a quiz for a book each year, and by memorizing the quiz I could easily make
the points I needed at the beginning of the year, and spend the rest of AR Time, in which we

could read a book during portions of class, to read the books I wanted, not some AR book that
everyone else read for points. Things changed however, after I moved. At my new school there
were no required amounts of AR points, it was a competition! Prizes were given for certain
amounts of points earned that year, and not only that, this new school only allowed you to take a
certain books quiz once, ever! AR stopped being a minor hassle and became an interesting
challenge, not only because of the prizes, but because the list of AR books had expanded, adding
hundreds, possibly thousands, of new, interesting books to pursue. In third and fourth grades I
worked to make my way up the points ladder, but in fifth grade I triumphed. In that year I
became the true undisputed king of the AR system (at my school). I reigned triumphant the entire
year. It became even more important for me to do so that year, as a new girl had come and she
was a great rival. She was no more than four or five books away from me at any given point, and
it became quite the challenge staying at the top. But was it ever rewarding! Not only did I get
prizes, and ice cream at the end of the year, I got personal visits from the principle! He would
come to each class once in a while to discuss AR with the students, and every time he came to
our classroom he personally congratulated me! Once he came in and asked the classes if they
were all reading, and the entire class responded in the negative, upon asking why the entire class
said my name, because not only was I the student with the most singular amount of points, with
me and my rival in one class we had the largest number of points out of any class in the school!
We won a pizza party that year. This system not only allowed me to do what I loved, but also
firmly planted the idea that reading was a useful and rewarding activity.
The thing that most cemented my love of literacy however, was on singular book. The
Deed of Paksenarrion, by Elizabeth Moon. This wasnt actually a novel, but a trilogy in one
binding. The story begins with one girl Paksenarrion, called Paks, who runs away from home to

join a military company, going to war, he great deeds of heroism, from escaping an enemy
ambush and traveling to inform the mercenary leader, to capturing the enemy leader single
handedly, after the entire patrol had been magicked asleep. And all this in only the first third!
She goes on to travel to a mountain ruin, free an ancient spirit from possession by an evil being,
defeat a priest of an evil goddess and his minions, and start a journey to become a paladin, a
warrior of the gods. On a journey to an ancient stronghold however, she is caught by evil
monsters, and a dark evil takes root in her, upon its removal however, she is stricken with fear at
the mere sight of weaponry, and must give up her quest. In the last book she is eventually healed
of her fear, and becomes a paladin, and manages to place her former military commander upon
his rightful, and previously unknown, throne. I, to this day, love this book above all others. Even
just sitting here typing about it, I want to go read it. I love it so much, the first time I read it I
believed I had learned to read just to read this book!
While reading and writing and literacy is great, I honestly dont care about it, but for me
one thing holds true, no matter how much anyone argues about this definition or whether one
person is literate or not, I only care that I can read the books that I love.