Literacy Narrative

English and I have a strong love-hate relationship. For as far back as I can remember, I have always hated reading and writing. I never understood how people could derive joy from it. Who stares at a bunch of words on a paper and gains happiness? How could that be possible? This was a concept I was too naive to understand at my young age. How was someone able to write their feelings down when they could just go to therapy and talk it out like everyone else? Why was reading and writing—English literature—necessary for life?

It all started in the second grade when my teacher, Mrs. Mandel, had every child tested on our reading comprehension levels. “Attention class, I want everyone to know that from now on we will be reading based on our levels of comprehension and no longer reading for fun as a class. I want everyone to continue reading and wait to be called upon to be tested,” and that’s when my anxiety started to creep in. I was only eight years old, being tested on my comprehension skills! I had just learned how to read my sight words, let alone chapter books, and now I needed to be on certain levels?! I was in a new environment, no longer at home all day with mommy, and for the first time, I was going to be “ranked” based on my level of comprehension. I was both nervous and anxious. As a young eight-year-old girl, I was at that stage in my life where I was adjusting to a new environment and trying to adapt to the new social circle I was in. I was always a competitive girl, so knowing that I was going to be tested and ranked made me feel the need to be on top; I needed to be number one. I was always number one in mom and dad’s book, and there was no way that was stopping now.

“Maya, you’re up,” I remember the fear rushing through my body as I heard my own name. Shaking as I walked towards the teacher’s desk, I began to drip sweat with every step I took. Finally reaching her desk, I took a seat near her. I still remember the book I read to this day. It was “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown. Reading out the first line, I began to tremble. My words were not forming, I was mumbling. Rushing to finish the page and get back to my safe space at my desk, my mind was filled with too many thoughts to count. Nervously looking up at my teacher, I watched as she circled as many Fs as she could on that paper. It was at that moment I knew I wasn’t mommy and daddy’s number one anymore. “Okay, Maya, great job, you can go back to your seat.” The walk back was a true walk of shame. I put my head down out of embarrassment and just kept walking until I reached my seat. I knew I didn’t give it my all, and I let my anxiety get the best of me.

“Maya, can you see me after class, please?” I began to shake upon hearing those words. I knew it was over, and I needed to find my new hobby quickly. Reading was no longer my escape; it became my enemy. After what felt like years, class was finally over, and I shook as I walked across the room to the teacher’s desk. I knew what was coming. “Maya, I’m afraid you’re below reading level and might need a reading tutor. Your comprehension levels were very low, and that’s the most important skill. I’ll have a talk with your parents later today, but for now, I want you to practice reading and try to understand what you read.” From that moment on, I gave up on what I loved. Reading and I were no longer in a loving relationship. I now hated reading and never wanted to look at another book ever again in my life. It was the first thing to ever put me down from number one, and I was not okay with that. I was always number one, and this was something that just put me not only not at number one but at number 21. I was the worst in the class. I never picked up another book after that. My mom would try to bribe me with all different things, but I never gave in. Reading gave up on me, so I gave up on it. I was done. From that day forward, every comprehension grade in my English classes was either a C, D, or F, nothing more. I was officially done. But it didn’t end there. The next day, we were starting a new activity called journal entries. Every morning before the lesson began, we would write for up to 15 minutes about how our days were going so far. This turned out to be a miserable sort of “chore” for me that I couldn’t stand. Every time I picked up my pencil and tried to write, I would be stuck for ten minutes, not knowing what to write about. Then, when I finally got into the groove, time was up. It was very annoying to deal with. And I still deal with this today. Every time I have a writing assignment, I get stuck for a while on how to begin or what to write about. A recent example is this essay. I was stuck for almost two days before I was finally able to write something. Once I got into it, I was able to do it in less than two hours. But that wasn’t my only issue. Whenever I began to write my journal entries, my hand wasn’t fast enough for my mind. I would be thinking of the next sentence while still writing out the first word of the previous sentence. It wasn’t adding up. This caused my writing aspect to decline as well. My teacher already ruined my love for reading, and now she ruined writing also!? I was letting her take away too many things that I loved and cherished, which was something I shouldn’t have allowed at the time, but I was too naive to understand.

As I grew older, I started to realize my mistake as a kid and that I shouldn’t have allowed my second-grade teacher to take away something that I loved and enjoyed. So I began to find ways to repair my relationship with both reading and writing. I started to read again and tried writing down my feelings as a way to get back into it. At first, it felt weird; I hadn’t picked up a book in almost 10 years. It was like I was teaching my eight-year-old self how to read again. I started going chapter by chapter and reflecting back on what I read to make sure I understood it. I was taking baby steps. After a while, I got back into it, and my relationship with reading was repaired. Although it took a while, it was as if I had never stopped. I now read for fun almost every day, but I don’t only read; I now understand what I read as well. Over the years, I have fixed my relationship with writing too. It was a very slow process, but it was worth the effort because now, although I still suffer from writer’s block, when I am in the groove, I can write up to 10 pages consistently. It wasn’t an easy road, but soon after I repaired my relationship with reading, the writing aspect came along as well. I now use writing as a way to jot down my feelings without being judged by anyone. There are some things you just need to get off your chest that no one can know. These are the things I use writing for. I would write in my journal for more than five pages if necessary; whatever helped me get it off my chest was what I was going to do. I was going to write for as long as I needed to feel better.

It wasn’t until I was about 16 years old that I fully repaired my relationship with both reading and writing. I now treat reading and writing as my friend rather than an enemy. So when I say English and I have a love-hate relationship, I mean it. Through all the ups and downs, I found my way back into doing what I love and enjoy, and it was all done for the better. This situation with my second-grade teacher helped show me how much I valued English and how much more I appreciate it now after realizing how it felt for it to be gone.