There are small glimpses of my life I can remember when I was a kid. A specific one comes to mind when reminiscing about the past, from the good old times when nothing in the world mattered besides adding and learning how to make simple sentences. I was probably around the age of 7. I was in my house dying of boredom because there wasn’t anything to do. It felt like my life was slowly being sucked out as I circled around my living room trying to figure out what to do.
For some reason, my brain sent signals to my feet to walk towards the garage, so I did. I let my feet guide me until I reached my destination. I stopped when I came across something that caught my attention. I approached it and little by little my hand got closer and pulled out a book. I cannot recall what the name of the book was, but after reading the first page, seeing all these new words and the imagery it made me see, I was hooked on reading.
During school, I loved being picked on to read. When the teachers would ask who’d want to participate in any type of reading, my hand would rise up faster than The Flash himself. We were assigned to read books with many chapters, magazines, and other peoples essays. This was all fascinating for me because I had this idea of enriching my vocabulary and this definitely helped improve it. Writing essays became a piece of cake for me. I loved writing and being able to express my ideas on a topic. There were times where I would score low on some, but id learn from my mistakes and try to advance.
There was a point where some of my peers would even ask me for help on their work and I happily obliged. This mainly being because it benefited me as well. I was able to see how other wrote and how their writing differentiated from mine. Reading became a habit of mine and that made me relate to Sherman Alexie’s narrative “Superman and Me.” He states,” I read newspapers. I read the bulletins posted on the walls of school, the clinic, the tribal offices, the post office. I read junk mail. I read magazines. I read anything that had words and paragraphs” (14).
I cannot express how much I can relate to him because I too read anything. It didn’t matter if it was a new book, the back of a cereal box, a flyer that was handed to me by a salesperson on the street, or a shampoo bottle. Reading became part of me and something I loved doing. How else was I able to both expand my vocabulary and escape into a “new world” in my head every time I read a new book? Sherman Alexie and I both have a passion for reading and his determination to learn and read as much as he possibly could was inspiring to me. You don’t always read about a 3-year-old Indian boy who taught himself how to read with a comic book every day.
When talking about literacy, my mom is the first thing that comes to mind. Like Amy Tans mother in her narrative “Mother Tongue”, my mom’s literacy was the same as her mom. Amy Tan acknowledges that, “You should know that my mother’s expressive command of English belies how much she actually understands. She reads the Forbes report, listens to Wall Street Week, converses daily with her stockbroker, reads all of Shirley MacLaine’s books with ease…” (634) and,” Like others I have described it to people as ‘broken’ or ‘fractured’ English” (635). In both these quote she explains how her mom’s English wasn’t great when speaking but her reading was superb. My mom also had “broken” English as well. My mom’s situation was so similar to Amy Tans mom that it was scary.
Whenever my mom spoke, it was really difficult to comprehend what she was saying. For example, saying the word “dell” deemed impossible for her. Instead of “dell” she’d say “derr”. After constantly repeating it to her, she still couldn’t quite grasp the pronunciation correctly. What was ironic about this though, is how her English can be considered “limited”, but her reading was right off the bat. To illustrate, she was able to read and study the Drivers Handbook on her own with no problem whatsoever and still managed to pass. Both my mom and Amy Tans mom broke the idea that people who can’t properly speak English are illiterate and I find that amazing.
Because my infatuation, or admiration, for reading was so strong, I figure out I had a, what Carol A. Dweck declares in her article “The Perils and Promises of Praise”, “growth mindset.” In my own words, a “growth mindset” is the concept of being able to persevere when failing at something and not letting it bring you down but rather make you grow. Whenever I scored low on an essay I thought was great, I did not let it faze me. Instead, I tried to figure out why I scored low and tried to develop new strategies on how to fix my mistakes. I was able to make a connection about mindset to the book I was reading called “The Freedom Writers Diary.”
The person in Diary Entry #99, commented that,” ‘No one from my neighborhood has ever made a difference and I probably won’t make one either.’ This was my mindset” (194). The student pointed out that they thought they would be able to succeed because of what they were told. They had a “fixed mindset”, which Dweck also talks about in her article. From my understanding, this is the concept of having negative feelings towards the ability to grow and learn more because of the possibility of failing. Near the end of their short story though, their views change into a “growth mindset” because of someone who motivated them because they went through a near-death experience but still didn’t give up.
The student then said, “After hearing Cheryl’s story in person…I know that I could go to college and be somebody” (197). The student who experienced this and changed their way of thinking reminded ne if my father. Unfortunately, he didn’t believe he was able to learn how to read or speak English due to the fact that he never made it further than 4th grade in his educational experience. I’m not sure what made him change his mind, but eventually he decided to sign up for school.
I’ve never seen him so determined to learn. When faced with a problem, he’d ask me for help. He never gave up! Even though the situations between the student and my father are different, they both started off with a “fixed mindset” but managed to pull their heads out of that type of negative thinking and chose beneficial paths. With a little push, everyone can eventually do the same.
Whether you have a “fixed” or “growth” mindset, everyone has the ability to change. If you already have a “growth mindset”, you’re on the right track like me. If you don’t, you are still able to break the chain that clings your mind to having a negative mindset. It can be a challenge but that’s the whole point! Not everyone has the same advantages as others but you can definitely change your life. All you have to do is have the mentality to strive forward and voila, new paths will open up for you! It’ll be a great experience that would be worth going through.