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November 11, 2008

What are your feelings on Impacts on Literacy Development?

The interaction of personal and social influences on one’s literacy development impact one’s literary pursuits and practices. While one can approach literacy skills independently or as part of a group, both approaches have their own purposes, practices and rewards. Such is the case with Barbara Mellix, an independent learner, in “From Outside, In” and Eli Fisher, Jr., a group learner, in Andrea Fishman’s “Becoming Literate: A Lesson from the Amish.”
Literacy skills can be developed independently by an individual in a manner that matters to that person. Mellix wrote about learning to speak two languages. Both of the languages mattered in Mellix’s world, personally and socially. The black English she spoke at home and the standard English she spoke in public served the purpose of helping her fit in with the people in her immediate environment (386).
Literacy skills can also be developed by an individual in a manner that matters to a group. Fishman wrote about the Fisher family, and how the youngest one, Eli, was being taught literacy skills in the manner of Old Order Amish traditions (239). While the Fisher home has a diversified array of reading materials – from Walt Disney books to newspapers to magazines – the materials are carefully selected by the parents “in an attempt to control the reading material that enters their home” (239). This screening of reading materials serves the purpose of constraining the children to read only what the group – the Old Order Amish – wants them to read.
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People who undertake independent literacy development are rewarded by being able to effectively participate in society in general versus being only able to effectively participate in a specific society or culture. Not only was Mellix able to work with the public through her job at the insurance company, but when she was “drawn to the new developments in my life and the attending possibilities, opportunities for even greater change” she thought about going back to college to become a school teacher (390). Her independent thinking rewarded her with pursuing the literacy skills needed to fit in with society and work with the public.
Rewards in group literacy development include the continuance of a group’s particular culture and lifestyle. The Old Order Amish have been able to maintain their own style of writing for generations with tight control over reading material and writing lessons. “While grammar, spelling, and punctuation do count for the Old Order, they do so only to the extent that word order, words, and punctuation must allow readers to read – that is, to recognize and make sense of their reading” (246). By following the examples set forth by his group, Eli is rewarded by fitting in with his group.

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