Manzano / AP English
From a Wee Little Preschooler to a Wee Big High-Schooler
So everything—my reading, writing, and other experiences— started with my birth on October 6, 1996; well okay, not really—it didn’t start with my birth. They, my reading and writing experiences, started with preschool, which is the same for most people. These two skills are an integral part of my life; I use them almost every day. However, that doesn’t mean I have to like both of them. I did not like reading very much then, writing even more so; essays and paragraphs and essays and some more essays were painful. My writing skills, to say the very least, were not very developed. As time passed, however, my views toward writing and reading began to change and my ability to write evolved. My reminiscing begins with preschool and there, my first encounter with writing.
It was an uncomfortable day, especially since I was wearing a tiny little suit made for a three year old child. The heat did not make it any better. Days in Burma were at best, sweltering. They are always around eighty or ninety degrees; the worst days were days when the temperature reached to about a hundred degree Fahrenheit. It was my first day at preschool; the preschool I went to was for learning English. My family decided learning English was much better than learning Burmese. After a week of initiation at preschool, we were introduced to writing. They gave us sheets of papers with faint outlines of the alphabet for us to trace. I traced them in class; I traced them at home; and I traced them at my relatives’ homes. Basically, I traced them until I knew how to write the alphabet backwards, frontwards, inwards, and outwards. I didn’t like tracing the alphabet at all; my letters were all skewed and scratched. They were like chicken scrawls.
Preschool was all about easing into the basics of writing and talking. We had these “cycles of conversations” where we answer questions the teacher asked us and where we asked each other questions. Reading sounds and vowels were introduced to us only a little in preschool. This was an important time for me, because it was a period for learning the foundations for writing, which I will use for the rest of my life.
After I was finished with preschool, I was enrolled into a private elementary school. It was an escalator type of school, which meant that elementary school, middle school, and high school were joined together, but in different sections. The name of the school, if I can recall it, was called YIEC. I went through a part of elementary school, from first to third grade, there. The first day of first grade started out bad.
It was short—way too short. My hair was fashioned into one of those incorrigible traditional, ubiquitous and short Burmese haircuts; the haircut is something similar to a bob haircut, except it was much cruder and much shorter. To put it plainly, it resembled a coconut. I did not like it at all; short hair has been and will always be the bane of my life. It was the first day of my first grade life. This was the grade where I was first distinctly aware of my dislike for writing, reading, and short hair; it was also the grade where I became closer towards my best friends, my cousins. I was five years old.
Now, one might think that on the first day of first grade, a child would not have any friends with him, but she would not be necessarily right. I was lucky to have been born with two very close cousins; we were all best friends and our births were only days apart. We were known as “The Three Mice” among our relatives and families. Another extensively affectionate name was “The Three Monkeys”. Contrary to general opinions, I liked to think of us as “The Three Musketeers”. These two names have still stuck to this day, to a tender age of sixteen; my mother still calls me “mouse” or “monkey”. On this day, we three best friends went to first grade together.
First grade was an important milestone for us. We formally learned how to read more fluidly. That is, we learned how to sound out words, pronounce them properly, and learned how to read simple rhymes and beginner fiction books. I liked reading those simple rhymes and beginner fiction books. Reading improved my writing skills a bit and it became a well-liked (well, almost well-liked) thing for me, but writing, however, was still not likable.
My cousins and I read, wrote, and spoke together. We were all practically inseparable; the fact that our houses were only about 40 paces away from each other also didn’t help. Our mothers liked to say our butts were glued together and liked to call us wild monkeys. My cousins had a lot of influence on my writing and reading skills. We learned elementary English together. We also learned Chinese from a private tutor. The tutor would come to one of our houses and we all would learn basic Chinese from him in an after-school session which lasted about 2 hours. Then he would give us some homework suitable for first-graders. I hated it all. It was a tedious process to learn Chinese. The only way to learn Chinese is through tedious amounts of practice, rewriting and studying the words. This is perhaps the reason why I did not liked writing very much then and why I write sentences with a tinge of Chinese influence. Sentence structures for Chinese and English are very different. Time passed and our writing and readings skills in English and Chinese improved considerably. We had just finished third grade when an unexpected storm would overtake us.
My family decided to leave Burma and go to the United States. We arrived in California and started living in Daly City. It was an uneasy transition to fourth grade for me and a sad farewell with my close cousins didn’t help. My school experiences were different there compared to my experiences in my home country. The teachers were different there and I didn’t have much friends. I went through fourth, fifth, and sixth grade there pretty much as a “loner”.
Sixth grade was troublesome. I still didn’t have any real friends like my cousins; I distantly conversed and interacted with the students there, but none of them were like my cousins. I pretty much remained aloof to my fellow students and they in turn remained aloof to me. Some of them tried to talk to me, but I had no words for them and shrugged off their attempts. It was there, in sixth grade, that I also had my troublesome first encounter with the dreaded enemy, the essay. I was taught the basic structure of an essay. It was the title and the five paragraph structure with an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. My teachers burned this format into my mind. Looking back at the essays from my elementary school life, I have found that I wrote very badly and simply. My sentence structures and variations were bad and my spelling was worse; simply put, my grammar was bad. My thesis, introduction, and supporting details were also bad. This increased my dislike for writing even more so than the time I spent in Burma, but all that would soon change with graduation from elementary school closing in.
I was proficient enough in reading to tackle on a relatively hefty fiction book and understand it by then, so urged on by friendlessness, change, proficiency and teachers, I turned to reading. The first real fiction book (simple rhymes and beginner fiction books do not count) I read was called Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. By the time I finished reading it, I was infatuated with reading. Needless to say, my mind was blown—in a good way. There were many words I did not understand in that book, but nevertheless, I loved it. I still have the book, which is worn out from repeated readings—I have read it more than six times. From then on, I read more and more fiction books about dragons and magic. To this day, I am still avidly reading fiction books about fantasy. This was the biggest turning point in my reading and writing life.
My perspective about writing was turned upside down. I admired the sentence structures, the variety of words, the sounds, and most of all, I admired the dragons, and the innovativeness the author used. I wanted to be able to write like this author, but I didn’t have the motivation nor a real determination to practice and improve my writing. Thus, my writing skills only got better through needs—homework and class-work assigned by teachers.
Middle school came and I was changed by then. I made friends and read books. I also made three best friends who are as close to me as my cousins were. I made my first library card with my mother and sister accompanying me. Needless to say, I was very excited to have access to a whole boatload of fiction books with a flourish of a card. Middle school passed by quickly with me reading books and playing fantasy games; my addiction with that type of game most definitely stemmed from fantasy books. By the time I was nearing the end of eighth grade, I had finished reading all the interesting fiction books that were around my age level in the library, so I turned to online borrowing. That is, I went to my library account online and borrowed books from other libraries far away. I visited the library once every two weeks to pick up my books; I had trouble carrying them because I sometime went as far as to hold ten books online. I graduated middle school with my best friends and with my mind never straying too far from a good read.
Reading all these books has made an impact on my writing. It has undoubtedly improved my vocabulary, but there wasn’t much improvement in my writing skills. There wasn’t much improvement in my writing skills from reading these fantasy books because I liked to focus on the magic and storyline more than I liked to on sentence structures and writing; it was also because non-fiction books are much better to use as a foundation on which to improve your writing.
At the first day of high school, I came with my writing arm in a blue cast and a sling to mark my transition into high school. I had to use my left hand to write; this made my writings looked like a preschooler’s. Those two months were tedious and agonizing, but I learned a lesson: writing well should be a top priority! That was the only momentous event during my ninth grade year. The rest of the year passed amiably with more essays assigned to me for my English classes. My writing skills improved only a bit more as I finished ninth grade. Tenth grade passed without any momentous changes in my writing also. More essays were assigned to me and I did them all; my writing was certainly a bit better than last year. I was getting B+ and A- on my essays. I wanted to improve my writing because of that so I had a short fling with professional essays. I tried to write more like these writers, because one good way to improve your writing was to imitate and use better writers’ writings. This was self-initiated; I did it even though it wasn’t my homework or a requirement. My motivation only lasted a while and tenth grade came to a close and I still did not have any real motivation to improve my writing. This was my mindset about writing from ninth grade to the present, eleventh grade.
My present attitude towards writing is more positive than my past attitude; I like writing enough to self-initiate and improve it once in a while, but I still like reading more. Recounting these cumulative experiences with writing, something has been dawned on me and something has been rekindled. Reminiscing has rekindled my desire to improve my writing and it has dawned on me that the only way to improve my writing considerably is to self-initiate and study great essays. As soon as eleventh grade finishes, I will recount my writing experiences again to intimately know my writings. I will also start a self-initiated writing and study other essays. From a wee little preschooler to a wee big high-schooler, my writings and motivations have changed for the better. Thus, with this recounting, I shall take with me these desire and motivation and self-initiation with me everywhere to my future high school experience, and to my college experience, and until my literacy career dies.