Literacy Narrative Examples for College Students

A literacy narrative is quite simply that: it is a story of how you became literate and how it has affected your life. To create a literacy narrative, you just need to find your story and use descriptive text to bring it to life. Learn how to write a literacy narrative through exploring original and famous examples.

woman holding an open book woman holding an open book
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Breaking Down a Literacy Narrative

A literacy narrative is a personalized story of your relationship with language. Not only do literacy narratives discuss memories, but they also walk through a person’s discovery, trials and triumphs with reading, writing and speaking a language.

This doesn’t have to be English either. It could be your experiences learning a second language and the impact that it has had on you. The point is simply to tell the world about your struggles and growth with language and communication. Literacy narratives can have different themes, topics, styles, moods and tones that you can work to make your own.

Key Features of a Literacy Narrative

To start, a literacy narrative is a personalized story.

  • Hook: Begin with a hook to draw the reader in. This could be your first experience with books or how reading and writing define you.
  • Focus: Rounding out your first paragraph, you’ll want to give a short thesis that tells the reader the whole point of your story.
  • Meaning: Throughout the remainder of your narrative, you’ll use stories and vivid descriptions to explore the meaning of this journey to you. You might discuss how your poetry has grown or your love of reading has turned into writing.
  • Challenges: Explore the challenges that you’ve faced in your journey and how you’ve overcome them, along with how your ideas and thoughts have transformed.

Example: Relationship with Words

Explore how to write a literacy narrative essay through an original example for college level students. The following example is written by Jennifer Betts.

Words were like a puzzle that I couldn’t quite solve. Listening to the teachers read the jumbled-up letters on the page, I was fascinated by how they could easily bring the pictures to life. The first day that I truly became literate, it was like another world opening up. My fingers couldn’t find books fast enough. My relationship with words has been a powerful, fantastical and even sometimes disastrous journey.

I would like to say that I’ve always known the power of words, but that simply isn’t true. The power that a word can hold jumped at me like a thief in the night the first time I encountered my own personal bully. They took the words that I’d proudly written and made them less meaningful than trash. However, it was that bully that forced my reading and vocabulary to grow. They made me realize the power that a few sentences could hold in an instant. Like swords in battle, they can quickly cut and decimate your opponent. Mastering the tactics of battle, you turn from the opponent to the victor. The need to be the victor drove me to books. And books opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking.

I have that bully to thank for leading me to the children’s book Harry Potter. The moment I slid open those silken pages, my eyes couldn’t devour them fast enough. The story pushed the limits of my vast imagination and truly allowed me to soar. The moment the journey was over, I missed it. And there hasn’t been another book since that has truly satisfied that high.

While I had dabbled in writing my own love stories a time or two, my need to find another fantasy that consumed me like the Harry Potter series pushed me into trying my own hand at writing. The moment my fingers hit the keys, the words just started pouring out of me at a rate that even I couldn’t control. Who knew that the shy, introverted child had so much to say?

While my relationship with written words are the things of dreams, my plunge into speaking often has disastrous consequences. Never have I been a good public speaker. In school, it was the day that I dreaded. Despite my preparation, I would trip and stumble to the podium only to repeat my performance in my carefully planned words. While they say practice makes perfect, in my case, practice has made mediocre. But to get the world to hear your words, sometimes you need to find the courage to speak them.

Even if the delivery isn’t perfect.

Though my journey with words started in frustration, it turned to fascination and wonder in a minute. Even with many years of reading under my belt, I’m still humbled by the power that a single word can hold if used the right or even the wrong way. Sharper than knives or softer than a silk, finding the right words is always an interesting journey.

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Famous Examples of a Literacy Narrative

Literacy narratives can make an impact. Going beyond a short essay, a literacy narrative can even become an entire book that explores your literacy journey. To get your creative juices flowing, look at a few excerpts from famous examples of literacy narratives.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking.

In “The Writing Life,” Annie Dilliard uses short essays to explore her journey with literacy and writing. Using her own unique style, Annie helps you to explore how and why she is a writer and what a rough and exciting journey it can be. You follow how writing can be torturous and transcendent all in the same moment.

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Literacy Narrative by Kiki Petrosino

I wish to put my blackness into some kind of order. My blackness, my builtness, my blackness, a bill. I want you to know how I feel it: cold key under the tongue. Mean fishhook of homesickness that catches my heart when I walk under southern pines. And how I recognized the watery warp of the floor in my great-grandma’s house, when I dreamed it. This is what her complaining ghost said: Write about me.

Culture and writing and how culture affects writing are explored in “Literacy Narrative,” a personal essay by Kiki Petrosino. Kiki uses her experiences as a black woman and her history to show her relationship with words. She explores how her African American heritage drives her writing and how, through her journey with descriptive poetry, she intermingles her poetry and race to create a compelling work.

Bird by Bird Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.

Anne Lamott takes you through a hilarious and witty ride to finding her story in “Bird by Bird.” Through showing you her journey into becoming a writer and finding literacy, she tries to help others find their own story in this personal narrative. Starting with some words of wisdom from her father, this literacy narrative takes you through her entire journey with writer's block and pushing your limits. This is a great example of the impact and depth that a literacy narrative can take.

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Finding Your Words

Everyone has a literacy story. It can even be how you don’t like to read. In college, you often have to explore your personal literacy story through an essay. Using these tactics and examples, you can dive into the fun world of personal expression and exploration. If literacy narratives aren’t your jam, you might give poetry a try. There are several poetry genres perfect for personal exploration and introspection, too.