What Is a Micro-Genre Literacy Narrative?
Most people have a few strong memories of themselves reading or writing. The emotions associated with those memories can be negative, positive or a combination of feelings, and they shape how people think of themselves as readers and writers in the present. The micro-genre of literacy narrative reflects on those experiences and emotions.
In literature, genres are categories of text that are characterized by a particular form, style or content. For example, novels, poetry and biography are different genres. Of course, each of these categories contains vastly dissimilar texts, so writers create sub-genres to distinguish among them: poems can be sonnets, epics, ballads or any number of other genres. “Micro-genre” is a relatively recent critical term used to describe an extremely narrow genre. These can be as specific as readers want to make them; for instance, “science fiction featuring an unlikely friendship between a human and a robot” could be a micro-genre of novels, according to author Wei Wang, in his article, "The Notions of Genre and Micro-genre in Contrastive Rhetoric Research."
Literacy narrative is a micro-genre that teachers commonly assign in K-12 and college classrooms, and it appears in published work. Literacy narrative is a sub-genre of narrative, an account of events. When you write a literacy narrative about your own experience, it’s also a sub-genre of autobiography. In this context, literacy can be defined as “social meaning-making through language,” according to J. Blake Scott's article, "The Literacy Narrative as Production Pedagogy in the Composition Classroom." Literacy narratives thus recount one or more meaningful experiences that their writers had with language. They may also consider what effect this experience has had on the writer since then, states Deborah Brandt in the essay, "Autobiographical Accounts of Learning to Write." A well-known example of a literacy narrative is Frederick Douglass’ “Learning to Read and Write.”
Literacy narratives can focus on any meaningful language-related event. If you’re writing one, it can be helpful to think back on your experiences by considering several different categories, such as time and place, motivations, consequences, audience and technology. Along these lines fall questions such as when and where you remember writing, reading or being read to; why you read or wrote and how you felt about it; what changed in your life because of your literacy experience; who else was associated with that experience and how they responded; and what materials were available to you.
Benefits to Students
Most importantly, crafting their own literacy narratives can help students feel empowered as authors and writers. It can expand their definitions of what kinds of literacy experiences matter and validate their own experiences as worthy of remembering, recording and communicating. It can also reveal to students that attitudes toward reading and writing are determined by people’s experiences, and it can allow them to reflect more critically on the kinds of literate practices they currently engage in, according to J. Blake Scott in "Teaching English in the Two-Year College: The Literacy Narrative as Production Pedagogy in the Composition Classroom."
- Writing Today; Richard Johnson-Sheehan and Charles Paine
- Teaching English in the Two-Year College: The Literacy Narrative as Production Pedagogy in the Composition Classroom; J. Blake Scott
- University of Oklahoma Lecture Series on Literacy and Writing Across the Curriculum: Literacy Learning in America: Autobiographical Accounts of Learning to Write; Deborah Brandt
Elissa Hansen has more than nine years of editorial experience, and she specializes in academic editing across disciplines. She teaches university English and professional writing courses, holding a Bachelor of Arts in English and a certificate in technical communication from Cal Poly, a Master of Arts in English from the University of Wyoming, and a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota.