A Student Looks Back on His Reading Life

Now a freshman at City College in New York City, Jason was a senior at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx when he wrote the following as part of a “reading autobiography” required for his graduation portfolio. “In class, he looked as if he were never paying attention,” said Nancy Mann, Hamer’s principal, but his reflection revealed that “he had developed an intellectual technique.”

As I read the reading reflections of Malcolm X and Richard Rodriguez I notice that Richard Rodriguez and I have more in common in learning the English language and how we connected with our family. . . . While growing up we both were ashamed of our parents trying to talk English. But now that I look back at it I notice that I was foolish because my parents, with as little English as they know, managed to raise two kids and hold on to their jobs, just like Richard Rodriguez’s family. While I was growing up Richard Rodriguez and I received the same responsibility: we both were sent to the store because we both were learning English and we could do stuff like communicating with the guy at the store. But the main problem that Richard Rodriguez and I both had was that it was hard to pick up the English language since in both of our families we were going back and forth from Spanish at home and English at school. This is a problem that a lot of Hispanic kids have while growing up.

While growing up reading was one of the hardest things for me to do since some of the words were hard for me to pronounce and this made it hard for me to understand the material that I was reading. . . . The only time that I used to read something on my own was when I would read the kind of stuff that would interest me like sports. . . . I already had a clue what the article [was] about, so sports articles became easy for me to read.

But as I was getting older and the reading material got harder for me to comprehend I began to daydream while we read in class all at the same time as a group. . . . I was in a large class and each student would only read one paragraph and never read again for that whole class. . . . By the time it was my turn the article would have been read already. So then I would lose interest and would begin to talk to a friend or start to stare out the window . . . I even tried to block out the noise from the other kids reading out loud and tried to do my own reading.

This led to the start of me learning to be an independent reader. I started to take the text books home and I started to read on my own. . . . I didn’t want to be bothered while I was doing my reading. This made me become a better reader because I started sounding out the words on my own and this made me a faster reader because I didn’t have to read at the same pace of the other kids. A problem that came out of my reading on my own was that I got so shy and this created a problem of not being able to read in public. I started to think in my mind that people will talk about my reading and also I started to think about how my voice sounded. But I began to expand the kind of reading that I normally would do. I started to read newspapers, I started to read the autobiographies of people that I found interesting and I started to read history books.

Now that I’m in high school I think that the reading material is way harder but it doesn’t really bother me because most of the reading we do is on our own. And I’m already used to doing my own independent reading. And when we do group reading I’m more involved because our classes are smaller and there is more time per class and there is less noise in the classrooms and the kids now can read at a faster pace.