How to Write a Literacy Narrative

Writing your own literacy narrative allows you to reflect on and share important events in your past that helped shape your reading and writing practices. Writing a literacy narrative is a common assignment in first-year college writing classrooms that develop your personal writing expertise. As a simple classroom assignment, literacy narratives require you to write a short story about your experiences with reading and writing and reflect on how those experiences contributed to your literacy education.

Pick a Story

All literacy narratives start with a specific story of literacy learning or development. These can range from reading with a parent before bedtime to struggling to make sense of a text written in a foreign language. These stories don’t need to be about your earliest memories of reading and writing, just memories that are personally significant and meaningful.

Use Vivid Details

Your specific story of literacy learning or development should pull the reader in, making him truly understand your experiences. Cite and describe specific reading or writing materials you used, whether it was a dog-eared copy of your favorite book or a shiny new laptop. The more vivid the details you try to remember and relay, the easier it will be to reflect on these experiences and the more inclined your reader will be to follow your narrative.

Identify Key Contributors

Your literacy learning didn’t happen in isolation; somebody contributed to your story of learning how to read and write. List and describe all the important people who helped you learn how to read and write, whether it was a schoolteacher, a parent, a friend, or even a TV program. In her book "Literacy and Learning: Reflections on Writing, Reading, and Society," Deborah Brandt calls these contributors sponsors of literacy in that they help or sponsor you in your literacy learning efforts.

Reflect on Significance

No literacy narrative is complete without an answer to the “so what” question. Indicate whether writing your personal literacy narrative generated any new insight for yourself or whether it might provide that for a reader. For example, you might suggest that because your mother taught you how to read, you were inspired to teach others how to read. Or you might say that since you and your friends developed your own written code to secretly communicate, you have been deeply passionate about computer coding and programming. Your reflection on the "so what" question makes sense of your original story as a part of your lifelong literacy education.

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