Becoming Literate A Lesson From The Amish By Andrea R. Fishman
What does literacy mean to the Fishers?• When the Fisher family’s reading and writing practices were described in the first few pages, did it seem similar to a typical middle class American family? Did it sound similar to forms of literacy reinforced in your own household or community?
Language and Literacy Acquisition• Literacy is strictly taught and control in the Fisher household: books, magazines, songs, letters, and games are selected or written to align with Amish and the family’s values• Exposure to alternative literacies is strictly prohibited• School literacy and home literacy are divided, but school literacy is designed to reinforce home literacy• Literacy is prioritized below household labor• Critical Period Hypothesis (David Singleton, Christian Abello-Contesse, and Mike Long)
Communal Literacy AcquisitionReading of Letters• “*I+n the Fisher family, letters received and even letters written are often read out loud, and though this oral sharing is done for informative rather than instructive purposes, it provides an implicit model for everyone to follow” (240)
Secular & Religious• Fishman argues that Eli experiences or can distinguish between both secular and religious literacy (245). Did you find this to be true from your reading? Is there truly a difference between secular and religious literacy in this Amish community?• Fishman argues “he *Eli+ knew what counted as writing in his world just as he knew what counted as reading” (245)
What does this community’s literacy practices lackby comparison to mainstream American?• Third-person-singular point of view• Critical reading• Individual analysis• Literacy appreciation (as in novels or fiction writing in general)— “Text whether biblical or secular, is perceived not as an object but as a force acting on the world, and it is the impact of that force that counts” (Sic) (246)
Rights to Literacy“We need to realize that students, even first-graders, have been reading the world—if not the word—for at least five, six, or seven years; they come to school not devoid of knowledge and values but with a clear sense of what their world demands and requires, including what, whether, and how to read and write, though their understandings may differ significantly from our own” (Fishman 248).-Also see Geneva Smitherman, Victor Villanueva, Elaine Richardson, and Gail Y. Okawa