The Importance of Literacy

Jan 8, 2019 in Comparative Essays
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Different Approaches to Literacy

The goal of this essay is to compare two absolutely different approaches to literacy; one is from the experience of Frederick Douglass, and the other is from the practice of Eudora Welty. It is necessary, to begin with, the well-known statement that education is very important for people. Though sometimes, those children who have a free way to it do not like to learn, others who do not have a possibility to get the necessary knowledge are ready to achieve this goal by all means. It should be stressed that the titles of these two essays are different. If Douglass gives his essay rather a simple title Learning to Read, Welty names her essay Glamorous to Learn. When a reader opens these two works, he/she expects something extraordinary from the second and rather plain from the first. Two children from these two stories have completely different attitudes to education. Douglass was a slave, and he lived in the family of his master Mr. Hugh. It is very interesting to see his observation of how the character of his mistress Mrs. Hugh had changed when she became a slaveholder. The writer noticed that she was a kind and tender-hearted woman, but in some time, her heart appeared to be a stone, and her character changed completely. Douglass noticed that nothing could make her more furious than seeing him reading a newspaper. Therefore, being a slave and having not many possibilities to learn to read, he had a great desire to become an educated person. However, it was impossible for him while he was in the house of his mistress; he made a plan and asked little boys whom he met in the streets to help him to learn to read. He was a slave all his life, and his dream was to get freedom and become as free as these little boys who were his teachers of reading. Douglass found a book with speeches of famous people and read all that was written there; thus, while reading it, he also got some knowledge about the world he lived in. He did not have any system of learning, and he had lessons from time to time. Only his great desire to read and write made him find all possible ways to accomplish it. It is very interesting how he learned to write. He noticed that a carpenter in a shipyard wrote letters on timbers in order to mix them. He saw that this worker used the first letters of the words, so a boy could find out some written letters of the alphabet. In some time, he found Webster's Spelling Book, which helped him to begin writing. He got the so-called self-education, and having this knowledge, he understood that the only way for him to become free is to escape. He saw that the world is not limited to the house of his master’s, and he should explore it. To make this wish come true, he had to become free.

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Eudora Welty also got a good education, but, as contrasted with Douglass, it was her mother who came to the school and asked the teacher, Miss Duling, to take her daughter to her class. The little girl was very curious, and, after noticing it, her mother understood that it was time for her daughter to get education. Unlike Douglass, this child had all the necessary conditions to become a well-educated person. In her essay, Welty paid a lot of attention to the personality of her teacher. This lady was a dedicated school teacher; it means that this woman devoted all her life to teaching children. She had high standards and all her pupils tried to follow these standards. School, where Eudora got her first education, did not differ from any other schools for children. There were different lessons in this school: the girl told about classes of physical training, singing, and drawing. Unlike Douglass with his poor conditions for education, Welty went to a wonderful school; while the boy could learn only to read and write, the girl got all the necessary lessons that should be given in school. Douglass discovered the world through his own experience while Welty found all about the world from books and lessons of teachers. Nevertheless, in both cases, kids wanted to learn, and they found lessons very useful for them.

Literacy is a number of skills that are necessary for any person to get information about the world surrounding him/her. Nowadays, these skills are acquired at schools, and all children of the age from 5 till 6 have a possibility to learn. Children are usually interested in opening the world of letters and written texts. Taking into consideration these two children, Douglass and Welty, it should be mentioned that for Douglass, literacy means a better life while for Welty, good literacy means no more than just a good mark from her teacher. Thus, it is evident that reading and writing skills open a lot for a child; they give him/her a chance to explore the world around. In any case, literacy can become the beginning of an outstanding career in the future; all will depend on the persistence of a person. It can be confidently said that Douglass, unlike Welty, has this necessary persistence because he had to get knowledge to overcome difficulties.

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For me, literacy is a possibility to see myself as a part of the world I live in. It opens the way to all experiences of mankind, a chance to get the wisdom of all people who lived before me. I learned to read and write like all children of my generation at primary school. Naturally, I asked my parents about some inscriptions, which I could see in the streets and in newspapers, mean. I knew some letters already when I went to school, and it was not hard for me to understand how to make a word out of letters and how to write them on a sheet of paper. I liked to listen to fairy tales, which my mother used to read for me. I remembered all fairy characters, and I liked to make up different stories about them. One problem made me sad: when I made up a new story, I forgot the details of it very fast, and the next day, I could not remember what my characters did or thought. I was curious how fairy books were typed and how authors knew what to write. Later, my mother told me that all fairy tales were written with the help of letters, and she showed me them. I remembered them rather fast. Thus, when I went to school for the first time and when I had my first lesson, I knew letters of the alphabet and could read simple words. At school, I found out a lot of interesting about letters: if to add voice letter with voiceless, there will be a syllable: if to put two or more syllables together, there will be a word, and a sentence consists of many words. I understood how to write down my fantasies, and I even tried to make up my own fairy tale. It was my first experience of literacy. I could see that, with the help of reading and writing skills, I can find out a lot about people who lived before me and made such wonderful fairy stories. I like fantasy till that time, but I did not become a writer.

I think that education can become a huge weapon in the hands of those people who are thirst for power. It is easy for them to make people around them think that their world is all he/she wants them to do. It is enough to close the world for them if they cannot read and write, they will not find out anything that happened in other countries, and they are sure that they live in the same conditions as all other people. I understood it when I met a boy who could not read and write and who knew only how to get food, where to sleep and whom to have fun with. I thought then that his world is so narrow, and it is closed inside of him. It means that if a person wants to be free, make his/her own decision and build his/her life, reading and writing skills are necessary as the beginning of the future life and achievements. In order to live in a happy world, it is important to provide the rising generation with good literacy. The ability to write and read opens the world for people: they can find out the experience of great people of last centuries, and it gives them the understanding of their life, the role which they play in the chain of past and future generations. Literacy is the first step for people to make great discovering; it is extremely significant for all children to have a chance to learn reading and writing, otherwise, we can miss one more genius.

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