Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The writing process...

[Caveat:  I started my computer world on an Apple IIe.  I went off to be a missionary and my parents got rid of that computer.  When I came back, I headed off to graduate school and had an original Mac Powerbook (It's still in my basement since all my graduate work is on it and it still works almost two decades later).  Then, somehow, I became a Dell person and only had Windows computers.  My last Dell laptop was replaced or repaired over a dozen times during the four years of its warranty.  When it broke once more, I finally gave into peer pressure and switched to a Macbook.  However, that means all of the educational PowerPoint presentations I built are no longer accessible to me.  I paid for the MAC version of the design programs, having made such an investment in them, and then just bought the economical Pages and Numbers for my new "Office" work on the Mac.  Hence, the images I have to offer are poor quality and I am not sure, being ill, I have the energy to recreate something like the one below.]


As a scholar and then an educator and then a professor in education, I fully subscribe to and believe the very best way to approach literacy in the elementary school is Patricia Cunningham's Four Blocks Program.  Those Four Blocks consist of:  Guided Reading, Self-Selected Reading, Writing, and Working with Words.  This article has links to various aspects of the program.  And I have said that for working with words, the GOLD STANDARD is Patricia Cunningham's Phonics They Use.  Moving into the middle grades and high school, I am a great supporter of the Writing Workshop, as developed by Lucy Calkins.

There are many ways one can approach the writing process.  What is important is to encourage  children to write from the moment they understand what reading and writing are.  Donald Graves has proven that their nonsensical-looking scratches have meaning to them and getting them to read you the stories they have "written" is a powerful start to developing a child's literacy.  At home and in the classroom, bookshelves should include books/stories written by children, giving value to the ideas and voices the children are developing as readers and writers.

Below is a standard flow chart of the writing process.  The MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember about the writing process is that whilst there are key elements that writers need to practice, all writing is essentially idiosyncratic and the process of writing itself must be allowed to be fluid, not rigid.  By that I mean you simply do not march a writer through the "steps" of the writing process as if completing each one will result in a solid finished product.  The writing process is a more of continuum and less of a strictly linear process.

At this point, I will digress a bit and give you the best model of a continuum (learned from Louise Rosenblat) that I have seen.  Simple, but clear.  Instead of drawing a line with two end points, she draws a rectangular box, with a diagonal line from the top left corner to the lower left corner that is bisected from top to bottom, going from side to side.

Using her structure, this is the model of the continuum of the Issues of Self in Reader Engagement from my dissertation.  As you can see, by slicing the linear form of the continuum, there is always a bit of both selves informing the engagement, the self of the reader and the self of the character.  As you move along the continuum, sometimes there is more influence by one self than the other, but both are a part of engagement in the reading process.

So, what I am trying to say, albeit admittedly clumsily, is that the writing process should be viewed as all the parts overlapping to some degree, informing each step along the way.  Hence, writing is a fluid process from beginning (the idea) to the end (the completed text).

Take the first part of the writing process: Prewriting. It is essentially comprised of four key elements: brainstorming, researching, outlining and discussing.  All of those elements themselves can overlap and be repeated or returned to as, for example, discussing an outline might need to a new brainstorming session that in turn leads to further research.  And, once the actual Drafting part of the writing process has begun, the progression of the development of the text may reveal the need to return to some of the pre-writing activities.

To me, the model speaks for itself.  By that I mean I see no real need to explain each yellow segment, or green subsegments or purple deep subsegments.  The point is that all of those activities on the model are ones that take place during the writing process and, as a whole, move from one major part of the writing process to the next (remembering the fluid nature of that journey) until the project is complete.

The key point of the model is to demonstrate that the writing process is a multi-step, multi-faceted process.  Not all writing need to be taken to completion.  Writers should have the freedom to abandon projects that become overwhelming, unwieldy, or basically a bad idea.  All finished writing projects, however, should have more than a single draft and should include pre-writing activities, rewrites of drafts, editing, and some form of publishing.  Finally, the latter can take many forms, and over the course of their literacy instruction, writers should explore the process of writing in varied genres and publishing in varied formats.  The beauty of the advancements in technology since I first started my college degree in education is that publishing in varied formats today is quite easy, with programs, apps, and online hosting sites—to name a few technological tools—a plenty.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Transactional Theory of Literature...

The very best bit of my doctoral studies began with a glimpse whilst getting my master's degree. It was then I first heard of the Secondary World. Basically, this is when you get lost in a book, any text really. Technically, it is the willing suspension of disbelief. When I spend time in PERN, for example, in the world Anne McCaffrey created where dragons fly and share a telepathic lifelong bond with their chosen riders, I am willingly setting aside my very strong belief that dragons do not exist in order that I might eat and fly and fight alongside them. Those who enter fully the Secondary World are the ones who lose sight of the world in which they really exist...the ones who do not hear someone enter the room or sit down next to them whilst reading. You have Michael Benton (1980) to thank for that lesson.

It is my own personal contention that those who do not enjoy reading have not yet had that Secondary World experience, primarily because they have not yet found the right text for them.  Case in point, my own brother used to mock the hours I could spend reading and belittled my tears over "fake" stories.  Then, around 40, I think, my brother found the right sort of text for him, entered that Secondary World, and has been a voracious reader ever since.

As amazing as it was to learn what was happening to me when I got lost in a book, the best bit of my studies came later, when I "met" Louise Rosenblat, the most brilliant of all brilliant reading scholars. Back in the dark ages, she wrote Literature as Exploration (1938). Forty years later, the culmination of her Transactional Theory of reading was published as The Reader, The Text, and the Poem (1978). It is no hyperbole, to me, to state that everything that can be understood about reader engagement stems from her work.

She believed that every reading experience is an interactive event between the reader and the text, that meaning is made through that interaction. Meaning does not lie merely in the words of the author. Nor does meaning lie solely within the reader. Instead meaning is made, meaning is created, in the interaction that takes place between the text and the reader. Therefore, each event was unique because every reader is unique. That transaction, that exchange, she termed a "poem."  [A wonderful metaphor if you think about it.] The very best part of her theory is the understanding that each poem is also unique to the reader. By this I mean that when you re-read a text a new poem is created, because while you are still you, the you that you are in the next reading is unique from the you that you were in the previous reading.

The poem is created from your knowledge, your experience, your feelings...everything about you. Every day of our lives we change, we grow. Even the densest of us, even the most stuck-in-the-mud oafs, are still different because we have lived more, tasted more, heard more, felt more, seen more. Perhaps is it too blatant an example, but I read Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time before I was given the gift of faith and then again after. Imagine my surprise when I realized this was a story of faith and the Mrs Who, Mrs Which, and Mrs Whatsit are angels, not witches! How much more profound was experiencing anew The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe once I knew, once I was able to believe the work of the cross.

Of course, I also find fascinating how two Christians who are authors chose to wield their pens. I admire them both. One wrote as a Christian author; one wrote as an author whose faith colored her work but did not desire to write "Christian literature."  In fact, she oft took umbrage at those who would try to classify her (and subsequently restrict her work) as a Christian writer.  

L'Engle's The Arm of the Starfish has one of the most profound "poems" I have ever experienced, one that created anew is deeper and richer each time I visit the story. In a nutshell, there is a despicable man who causes the death of much beloved, innocent man. When the evil man's daughter is injured, he turns to the main character's father for help. The daughter is saved. The main character is astounded and incensed that her father would help the enemy. When she flings her anger and her betrayal at him, her father tells her that if you are going to care about the fall of the sparrow, you cannot pick or choose who the sparrow is going to be.

Good stuff there.  

I re-read all the time. All the time. I have favorite series I visit often. [Who wouldn't want regular doses of the brilliant pen of James Herriot?] I have authors for whom I own every single book that they published. When reading the next book in a series, my "rule" is that I first re-read all the books that came before it. For one series, that count is currently at 22! In this way, I prepare myself for the next serving by tasting once more the fullness of the feast offered me.

Just recently, for the fifth time, I re-read a series that has floored me in the new poems that are created each time I do so. They are not profound, I think, for anyone but me. The fall of the sparrow truth, well, the whole world could take note of that one. But Kaylin's battles? Well, I have been thinking of late that Michelle Sagara wrote this entire series just for me.

Here are a few excerpts:

Cast in Silence
It never went away. The regret. The guilt. Sometimes it ebbed for long enough that she could believe she was beyond it, but that was wishful thinking, another way of lying to herself. She didn't want to share this with Teela and Tain. Sharing bar brawls and near-death, yes. But this? [p.52]

"Stop judging your life by the failures," he whispered.
"What should I do?" she whispered, "I'm always going to fail."
"We all do," he said softly, his voice closer now. "We all fail, but none of us fail all the time." [p. 178]

"I think," she added, "that's why you can't see what I see; I never let you. It's dark, it's horrible – it's everything I believe about myself. The tower is speaking to me, yes. Bit by bit, it's unraveling all the lies of omission, even the ones I told myself. Maybe especially those. It's pulling out the things that I kept hidden because I couldn't stand to think about them.

"I don't know who I am, Severn. I don't think I've ever known who I am. But I know who I want to be, now. Maybe that's all I'll ever know. What I was is so large in my own mind I can't break through it if it's hidden. And I keep it hidden because I'm afraid. Of what it says about me. Of what it'll say about me to people whose opinion I actually care about.

"I'm not proud of it," she added." But I can pretend I accept it – as long as I never have to acknowledge it. And this," she said, throwing her arms wide, "is what it is. It's too big. I need to let it be what it was." [p. 296]

Cast in Secret
Epharim waited until she had joined them again and said softly, "You fear discovery. You fear your own thoughts." And he said it with pity. Kaylin was not the world's biggest pity fan."Fear, we all know," he added. "And we all know rejection and pain. But none of us have ever suffered this fear of being revealed, this fear of being seen as we are." He was serene, and without judgment. [p. 80]

[Kaylin] "Would you change your past?"
[Severn] "Parts of it. In a heartbeat."
He shrugged again.
"You wouldn't?"
"I can't. I don't waste time thinking about changing what can't be changed."
"And you're never afraid that someone won't judge you? That they won't misunderstand you or misconstrue you as you are now?"
"People judge me all the time. Be careful of that," he added, pointed at a trellis that grew near the roadside. Vines were wrapped around it, and they rustled in the nonexistent breeze.
"But they don't have the right –"
"They have the right to form their own opinions. I have the right to disagree with them in a fashion that doesn't break the Imperial Laws."
"I'm not afraid of the judgment of strangers," he told her quietly. "I live with my own judgment. That's enough. And I judge others, and live by those judgments, as well."
"I don't-" want to be despised or hated. She couldn't quite frame the words with her lips, they sounded so pathetic as a thought. But Severn had her name; she felt it had between them, it's foreign symbols not so much as sound as a texture. Ellariayn.
He stopped walking and caught her face in his hands, pulling it up. She met his eyes. "Then stop despising and hating yourself, Kaylin. We're not what we were. We're not what we will be. Everyone changes. Everyone can change. Let it go. If you're always afraid to be known, you'll never understand anyone else. If you never understand anyone else, you're never going be a good Hawk. You'll see what others see, or what they want you to see. You won't see what's there." [pp. 99–100]

Cast in Chaos
"I...I don't know how." It was hard, to say it. To admit it. Especially to Nightshade. Ignorance was weakness.
No, she thought. Ignorance was only weakness if you clung to the damn thing. [p. 107]

Re-reading this series, I regularly find bits and pieces of thoughts and choices and reactions that  I had not noticed before, bits and pieces that reach up and grab my heart, shake my soul, and very much trouble my waters.  I am not Kaylin and she is not me.  But we share so very many of the same struggles.  Each time I enter her world, the poems of meaning created are different because I am different, a bit older with new experiences.  And I understand Kaylin better because I understand myself better.  It is surprising to me that, still, after many times through the series, I find new bits to highlight and note for myself on my Kindle.

My doctoral research, completely unique at the time, looked at strong female protagonists in modern high fantasy, was conducted in a girls book club.  In another entry, perhaps, I will go through a brief summary of my research outcomes and the model of "engagement of self" that I devised.  It is odd, thus, having created that academic work, I still find myself marveling at the power of reader engagement and the ever new experiences I can have with a text that is completely familiar to me.

Rosenblat was a genius in a way I believe few understand. Yes, she had her day in the sun, but scholars have this distressing tendency to chase after the latest and the greatest, leaving behind truths that could continue to inform and frame new academic discourse, new discovery. The true depths of her work have yet to be plumbed. Its profundity never truly measured.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Fluency and automaticity...

Improving reading comprehension is the plea of many parents when asking for help with their children's literacy.  "What can I do?"  The answer is: "A lot!"

Automaticity is, in short, the ability to automatically recognize (and understand) the words being read.  Fluency is, essentially, the ability to read smoothly, with no or minimal need to stop and decode words.  The problem many children have with comprehension is that they are spending too much time on word recognition (lacking automaticity), which directly affects fluency. When fluency is interrupted, holding the story bits in the mind is harder for the reader. In other words, if you are stopping to decode words frequently in a story book, your mental energy and focus is on the decoding, not on comprehending the plot.  The same is true with any genre of text.

Increasing the rate of both automaticity and fluency will help to improve reading comprehension.  They do not help with all factors of reading comprehension, such as language and background experience, but working on automaticity and fluency will go a long way toward helping reading comprehension.  Parents can do the same sort of "exercises" that teachers can (and hopefully) do in the classroom to help with building up automaticity and fluency.  In a way, working on them is like the calisthenics of reading comprehension.

Below are some automaticity and fluency exercises.  It is recommended that the texts used for the exercises are varied and initially new to the reader.  For the latter exercises, after a few sessions, even if a text is not completed, it is best to move on to another one.

  • Choral Reading:  The idea here is to rehearse a text, just as you would a piece of music, with a group of readers who work out pace and expression.  As with any "choral" performance, the group can be divided into sections with different parts.  The idea is to convey meaning and build fluency in the reading from start to finish.  The practicing of the text helps improve both automaticity and fluency in a supportive environment where all finish the task as a strong reader of the text.  The emphasis on conveyed meaning mitigates any weaknesses of individual readers. 
  • Paired Reading:  Two readers sit together with the same text.  They read in unison so that the single voice is strong and fluid.  If the weaker reader does not know a word, he/she is hearing the word as the pair continues to read.  The emphasis on teamwork mitigates the mistakes of the weaker reader, while the weaker reader has a role model to help achieve a successful reading of the text.
  • Echo Reading: Two readers sit together with the same text. It is best to start with a text that is slightly easier than the reading level of the weaker reader.  The first reader starts reading the text and the second starts just after, as an echo. The idea is that the weaker reader is listening to what he is about to read and so has greater fluency in reading aloud.
  • Repeated Reading: The idea is to read a text only so far until three mistakes are made. Once that happens, the reader starts again, with the aim of getting further before hitting the three mistake mark. Then, a third time. The point is not to finish the story, but to rehearse the text.  The repetition builds automaticity and fluency. 
  • Timed Reading: Choose a time limit for the exercise before starting (perhaps 3 minutes, but this depends on both age and proficiency of the reader). Using a stop watch, have the reader get through as much text as possible before the time is up. As with Repeated Reading, you repeat the exercise, starting from the beginning, twice more. The goal is to build fluency from a faster word recognition rate with the repetition.
  • Radio Reading:  The idea is to emphasis communication and expression over exact content.  The reader reads aloud the text to an audience with the direction to use expression and emphasis to convey meaning and with the freedom to making substitutions for words that are unfamiliar to the reader in order to keep up the pace of reading. 

Something to remember is that using a text is important, not necessarily using a book.  Texts are any form of written word.  Yes, book are likely to be the most convenient text to use with these exercises, but one key to supporting reading in struggling children, older youth, and even adults is to utilize texts with which the readers are comfortable.  That might be comic books, song lyrics, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, emails, blog posts, and even forms/applications to name a few types of texts.

The other key to success is participation by the stronger reader(s) ... or ... to put it another way: modeling.  Let the weaker reader be the one to start the reading, to use the timer, and to mark mistakes.  Being willing to be equal partners in literacy exercises demonstrates both the importance of literacy proficiency and that learning is truly a lifelong endeavor.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Reading Comprehension...

Reading Comprehension is a complex issue, with many moving factors.  That is why it is a very good practice for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grader teachers to do literacy assessments on their students at the beginning of the year to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each child in the classroom.  I am not in schools now, obviously, but when I was and when I was a professor, few teachers were systematically assessing their students to start the year.

This graphic that I rebuilt from my notes shows the three main areas that affect reading comprehension.  In the early grades, usually the emphasis is on word identification.  "Mediated" means working out what the word means and "immediate" means the reader knows the meaning of the word upon sight.  The way word identification most affects comprehension is that if the reader is spending more time on mediated efforts (does not know the words upon sight and has to decode them), then the ability to hold the meaning of the combination of all those words—the message—is compromised because too much mental energy is spent on decoding the words.

I am a huge advocate of Words on the Wall, both at home and at school.  The idea is to fill the walls with both spelling words and vocabulary words so that students are surrounded by them all the time.  This means that spelling tests are "open," with the ability to just look up on the wall to see how to spell a word.  In this environment, students can collectively decide when they have moved words from "mediated" to "immediate" and take the words they all know down off the walls to make room for new words.  Such emphasizes the importance of learning words and empowers the students with the responsibility and celebration of that learning.

When it comes to teaching words and words play, the GOLD STANDARD is Patricia Cunningham's Phonics They Use.

The other main emphasis educators take is on print processing.  For students raised in print rich homes with parents who regularly read to them, print processing knowledge is usually mastered before they arrive at school.  One cannot understate just how important it is for infants, toddlers, and young children to experience lap reading.  When an adult (or older sibling) reads to a child, that child is learning:

  • Reading is a valuable and important activity.
  • You open books to read them.
  • Books are read from the front of the book to the back.
  • The black marks on the page have meaning.
  • Chunks of black marks are words.
  • Words are read from left to right.
  • Pages are read from top to bottom.
  • Illustrations help portray meaning to the story.

I could go on, but you get the point.  Thus, students who come to kindergarten from print poor homes are handicapped in literacy development from the outset of their education.  Teachers focus on print processing, in addition to word recognition, because of its importance.  But, also, it is the easiest aspect of reading comprehension to teach.

Walk into any elementary classroom where there are books in abundance, a reading corner with comfortable pillows and such, words on the wall, student made books on the shelves, and student writing on the walls and you know that literacy development is important to that teacher.  If you see such a classroom, take the time to stop and thank the teacher for his/her literacy instruction efforts!

Such an approach, however, in not fully structured and, thus, can be more challenging with behavior management.  Allowing students to read to each other, to read in spare moments, to curl up in a reading corner or beneath a desk or any place desired means allowing students to control their learning environment.  For some teachers the lack of regimentation is uncomfortable.

For parents who do not see such freedoms in their classrooms, they can create that environment in the home to foster their child's literacy development.  They can emphasis story reading and story telling.  They can bring books and other texts with them to take any spare moments in their outings or on their errands to read or story tell.  They can have a spot in the house (usually best near the table) where spelling and vocabulary words can be posted on the wall.  They can also make use of a pocket chart to promote word play at home.

For those who practice religious instruction in their homes, they can incorporate word play in their religious lessons.  For example, if your children are learning a Bible verse, putting each word of the verse on a piece of sentence strip, mixing them up on a pocket chart or a table top, and then letting children put the words back into the proper order helps then both memorize the text and gain immediate word recognition for the words in that verse.

If you cannot afford a pocket chart and sentence strips, you can use index cards to play with words.  Or even scraps of paper, as show in the movie The Color Purple.  Visually labeling items with their words and having children interact with those words is a powerful, powerful literacy education activity.

That leaves language development.  This is the most difficult area to remediate when students have deficiencies in this area.  It is also, in my personal opinion, the most neglected area of literacy instruction.  With a society that has utterly devalued proper spelling, punctuation, and sentence construction, fostering language development has become even more difficult.

For parents with children who have literacy difficulties, get them assessed.  If the teacher does not do it, ask the school.  It is your right to have a professional assessment by the public school system if your student is struggling with literacy.  If you homeschool, then pursue the assessment yourself.  And, if the results show a difficulty in language processing, get professional help.  Barter or trade for it if need be.  That intervention will be the best investment you could ever make in the education of your child.

I hope this brief overview has at least provided a bit of insight to literacy instruction, if not food for thought for how you can help foster literacy development.  It is my hope to continue discussing these factors of reading comprehension as I pursue my goal of capturing what I still remember about literacy.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Literacy matters...

Literacy matters.  It really does.  Now, I know that social media shouts at you at every turn and in every possible way that it doesn't, but literacy does matter.

Sadly, the news media teaches you wrong lessons about literacy daily.  I mean, seriously, using fake words in titles to articles, such as "vols" or "photogs," makes me cringe and a part of my heart dies each and every time I see such egregious grammatical errors posted without thought for the harm they are doing to literacy in America.  And then there is Hollywood and marketing and just about every form of literacy out there for consumption.  I honestly doubt there is a single person in all those forms of media left who understands how to properly use pronouns or how to punctuate with quotation marks.  SIGH.

Newspapers, newsletters, television shows, movies, news websites, blog posts, tweets, etc.  are all filled with errors, even by professionals and those educated enough to not make them.  In fact, it's fashionable to be incorrect and a social media faux pas to use proper grammar.  But I hope that, one day, the tide will turn.  That, one day, people will, once more, value the craftsmanship of proper syntax, semantics, and vocabulary in literacy acts.

In the meanwhile, I would be truly grateful if we could just work on using the pronouns "who" or "whom" with antecedents that are people as opposed to the pronouns "that" or "which."  This is especially when your marketing campaign involves student activists.  Even if the student is the one who wrote the speech with the improper pronoun use, editing is a valuable tool and lesson for the student to learn.  [Yes, Unilever, I mean you!]

Ah, but I digressed.

Literacy is not merely reading, a mistake many people make.  Literacy is READING, WRITING, LISTENING, and SPEAKING.  Every single day, our lives are full of a plethora of literacy acts, that often include myriad texts.  Paying attention to them is important.  All literacy acts can be learning experiences and/or teachable moments.  Each literacy encounter informs all the ones that follow.

Take the literacy act of READING:  When parents would come to me worried about the books their children were reading, I would always tell them not to worry.  Any reading is good.  Now, of course there are a few caveats.  Of course I do not advocate for pornographic or evil or otherwise inappropriate texts for children and young adults.  But usually the complaint—at least when I was teaching—was about just how many Goosebumps books a child was reading, for example.  Yes, the books are formulaic.  Yes, read one and you've essentially read them all.  The same holds true for many child series.  But reading is a good thing, and eventually, the young reader will tire of the formula and crave something more sophisticated.  For me, it took somewhere around 90 Nancy Drew books before I wanted more.  Nine or 90 is okay.

Besides, R. L. Stine is a bit of a genius.  He has shown readers what makes for a good story:  1) a well-constructed plot; 2) convincing characterization; 3) a worthwhile theme; and 4) an appropriate style.  He also has shown readers that a successful formula will attract readers, keep them reading, and lead to a solid career as a writer.  In his case, that formula is to write chapters in such a way that ending one is near impossible and entices the reader to start the next chapter before closing the book.  All in all, R. L. Stine has made a positive contribution to literacy, even if the thought of reading one more Goosebumps books to your child makes you groan.

I will go on record stating that the single greatest act a parent can do for a child's educational success is to create and maintain a print rich environment in the home that promotes literacy experiences of all kinds by all who comprise the household.  Thus, the single greatest obstacle to educational success for many children in America is the lack of a print rich environment at home, where adults and children alike regularly engage in literacy acts.

I find it sad that the educational Powers-That-Be in America have never been willing to make a coordinated and substantial investment in providing print rich environments in all homes and supporting parents in their own literacy development.  Gazillions of dollars continue to be poured into the Head Start program, even though the government's own research has shown that gains Head Starts students make start to disappear around the the 3rd grade.

A friend of mine is moving to a town that has no public library.  It's 2015 and libraries are not a key element of our society.  Supporting literacy in the home and in the community is not a key element in our educational system.  It makes no bloody sense to me why not.  But, then again, no one ever asked me how to address the national literacy problem America faces.

Literacy matters.  Grammar matters.  Learning to communicate in myriad formats with clear and cohesive and correct words matters.  Comprehension matters.  Fluency matters.  Automaticity matters.  Listening skills matter.  Synthesis matters.  Analysis matters.  Critical thinking matters.  And the aspects of conversation matter.

I used to know more about those things.  I had this burning desire, as I saw the decline of literacy all around me—an the appalling literacy skills in the business world once I left education—to do something.  To write and teach and share in the hopes that I might at least help stem the tide in the ubiquitous egregious pronoun errors taking place in America.  To bring back the appreciation of the careful craftsmanship of the written word.  To help others value letters despite living in an instant communication world.

Now, my goal is simple: to shout at the world that LITERACY MATTERS—albeit somewhat feebly—by capturing the bits and pieces still left in my brain.

The cognitive dysfunction and decline I am facing has stayed my hand at picking up this task.  In my personal blog, I find grammatical errors all the time.  The me whom I used to be never made mistakes.  Now, I make them all the time and am deeply embarrassed by them.  If you spot one, please correct me. I will not like that you had to do so, but I will be truly grateful for the chance to have clean entries.  Because, in the end, this is not about me or my compositional pride.  It is about literacy.

Literacy matters.