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Gena Luke
Literacy Narrative
UWRT 1101
My Astonishing Literacy Journey
Making the transition from Egypt to America was indeed one that required a multitude of
attributes that would ensure my success as an American. Reading, writing and learning the
language are prime examples of the attributes needed to maintain a healthy social and interactive
lifestyle as an American. Although the transition was difficult, my reading and writing skills have
remarkably improved as a result of my consistent efforts to read on a daily basis. Let us begin by
indicating my background in education as well as pinpointing the steps that were taken to
enhance my reading and writing skills as an American.
Growing up I lived in a family home in Egypt, it consisted of a ten floor condo building
with all my family. That is considered to be the norm in Egypt, families live together and if you
have a son you can build on to the condo building where the son and his wife would live.
Blossoming in that environment I had a lot of cousins, uncles, and aunts around me therefore I
learned how to speak at an early age. You were never alone; the door was always open for
anyone to come in.
One of my favorite childhood memories would have to be hearing my mom sing, her
soothing angel like voice that comforted me. Im pretty sure I was singing about heartbreaks and
love songs before I was even potty trained. I came across an article on The Guardian website
about a book that claims singing to children helps develop language skills by Sally Goddard
Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education. According to Blythe, listening to, and

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singing along with rhymes and songs uses and develops both sides of the brain. Negro-Imaging
has shown that music involves more than just centralised hotspots in the brain, occupying large
swathes on both sides (Hill). My moms singing made me want to sing along so by the time I
was three I had remembered the lyrics. I have an incredibly good memory and I believe thats
where it started. My grandma once told my mom Ive never seen a child thats this advanced for
their age. I would always ask questions and want to know why everything is the way it is,
including the things I saw on television.
I believe the reason I was skeptical at that age was because I would always listen to the
conversations my mom would have so it became natural of me to want to understand what she
was talking about. My mother has been the biggest contributor for my ability to read, write and
compose; she was a stay at home mom so all her time was focused on teaching my brother and
me. When the time came around for me to start kindergarten, she had to prepare me for a
mandatory placement test that identified if one was educated enough to be accepted into the
private school. My mom would repeatedly make me write the same letter and words over and
over again. I learned the Arabic alphabet by my mom asking me to repeat after her then respond
with a word that started with the corresponding letter. For example she would say A then Id
reply A, apple in addition my older brother Habib would irritate me by answering my mom
before I would even get a chance so it created a competition between me and my brother who
can respond first.
My parents put my brother in an International General Certificate of Secondary
Education (IGCSE) School which is the highest level of education you can get in Egypt, while I
had to go to private Egyptian school. It wasnt that my parents didn't want me to be smart and

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succeed but since I was a female in my country I only needed a general education because at the
end of the day I would only get married and become a stayed home mom just like my mother,
my grandmother, and the generations before that. Women simply dont work in my country and
being a Christian as well as a female I had a very slim chance of being hired anywhere. In Egypt
women are seen to only bear children and take care or the house. Christians are a minority in
Egypt so were get discriminated against simply because of our religion. Experiencing that
reminded me of Sue Monk Kidds novel The Secret Life of Bees when Zach told Lilly he
wanted to be a lawyer and she responded by saying, Ive just never heard of a Negro lawyer,
thats all. Youve got to hear of these things before you can imagine them (Kidd 121). My role in
life was set for me right when I was born, the same way Zachs was and also the same way in the
1960s black womens role were to be housekeepers for white families. Let us now reflect upon
one of my biggest, most life changing moments.
My life completely changed when I was about eight years old when my parents told me
we were moving to the United States. At that moment it was the turning point of my existence, I
no longer had to conform to my ignorant society. Moving to the land of the free I knew I had an
opportunity to be whatever I desired, there was a whole new world for me. Making the transition
wasnt easy as I expected it to be, as a matter of fact learning English and conforming to the
American culture was the hardest thing I had to do. I remember my petite blonde haired and blue
eyed third grade English second language (ESL) teacher, Mrs.Snow; I had never seen anyone
with those features before. I remember the first day of class all of my peers stood up to say the
Pledge of Allegiance and I didn't understand what they were doing, I thought they were praying.

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I was obligated to learn a whole new language and culture, I looked different than
everyone else and could barely try a full sentence. In Mrs. Snows class, we did many activities
surrounding literacy. We religiously read books, had flashcards with vocabulary words, practiced
writing and had weekly spelling tests. It was difficult for me to keep up with the class pace
because it took me a longer time to figure out the definition for things. Every time I would read
anything I had a dictionary with me and when I stumbled on a word, I would look it up and write
it down and then continuously read over those words until I knew them. This is a connection I
have with Malcolm X as he wrote in his excerpt, Learning to Read I began copying.In my slow,
painstaking, ragged handwriting, I copied into my tablet everything printed on that first page,
down to the punctuation marks.I believe it took me a day. Then, aloud, I read back, to myself,
everything I'd written on the tablet. Over and over, aloud, to myself (X).
We were assigned to choose a book of our choice and read it aloud to Mrs. Snow outside of the
class. I dreaded my turn because I was extremely shy and hated the one on one attention. I was
reading simple books at first and was so frustrated because I wanted to be able to read the same
books as my peers in my regular class. My mom saw this frustration and with her broken English
she couldnt help so she got me a tutor. My tutor was an Egyptian American lady therefore it was
extremely helpful that she would relate some things to our culture in a way I would easily
understand. I read every single night, wrote the words I didn't understand them then studied
them.
I repeated the process of reading and writing down words I didnt understand for about a
year. Between Mrs. Snow assignments and my tutor, it was astonishing how much I had learned.
Being extremely competitive I didnt want to be in the ESL class anymore because while my

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regular class would go do fun activities like art, gym, and dance, I had to go to ESL. I continued
to read and focus on the way I pronounced certain words and letters, this improved both my
writing and reading skills. It was challenging at first because I had to start paying attention to
small details in my speech. With my tutor, we would practice writing letters, reading chapter
books and grammar skills. Mrs. Snow noticed my improvement and told me that I was able to
take this test and if I pass it then I would be placed out of ESL. I was extremely excited for that
opportunity which only made me study harder and learn endless vocabulary. At the beginning of
my fifth grade year I took the test and placed out of ESL. I was extremely excited to start a new
chapter in middle school without having to take anymore ESL classes.
Throughout middle school it was the time for me to learn the culture, I was able to speak
pretty well and could pretty much understand everyone. I struggled a little with grammar but
over time it improved, I continuously read no matter how short or long a book is. Surprisingly, I
didn't have an accent, I was speaking as if I was an American. I was able to make friends and
learn more from them about their culture, I even learned the Pledge of Allegiance.
Going into my adolescence years is when I was introduced to a cell phone. I was in
eighth grade when I got my first phone. I was absolutely fascinated by it and once I figured out
how to use it, it wasn't going out of my hands. I started texting all of my friends then went online
and made a Facebook. By using the internet I was able to connect with my old friends and family
from Egypt. I was reading way less and used all my free time messaging friends and playing
games on the computer. I started using short cuts for words for example instead of writing you
I would write just a U and instead of writing for I would write it as 4. I came across an
article that I completely agree with because I was one of the children that social media affected.
Children's literacy is being damaged by social media, headmasters claim.

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They say pupils are too distracted by sites such as Facebook and Twitter to
bother to read a book. As a result, thousands are poor spellers and have little
understanding of grammar (Barrow).
I had to catch myself wasting so much time on social media and I recently just deleted my
Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. After years of wasted time I finally realized that it wasnt worth
it.
My journey of literacy was challenging and rough, I am extremely grateful that my
parents and my teachers gave me an extra push. It was dumbfound how quickly I was able to
catch on to the English language but it came with a lot of hard work. I was able to learn two
languages at a young age and was given the opportunity to live my life freely. Im particularly
blessed to live in a country that provided me with all the resources I needed to learn their
language. My literacy only continues to grow.

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Works Cited

Hill, Amelia. "Singing to Children May Help Development of Language Skills."


The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 July 2015 .

Kidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life of Bees. New York: Viking, 2002. Print.

Becky, Barrow. "Facebook and Twitter 'harm Pupils Literacy'

Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 8 July


2015.

X, Malcolm. "Learning to Read." (n.d.): n. pag. 15 July 2015. Web.

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