Monica McGlynn-Stewart who is part of our research team on the longitudinal study of teachers is our first guest blogger. For more information on Monica click on the tab About our Research then click on Meet the Team.
I (Monica) gave my 16-year-old daughter I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai for Christmas and now I am getting a chance to read it. It is the memoir of a 16-year-old girl who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out about girls’ right to education. I find it fascinating for many reasons, not least of which is what I am learning about life in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. As an educator, I am always interested in learning about different systems of education and different pedagogical practices. Malala is the daughter of a school principal and had access to formal education except for a brief period when schools were closed by the Taliban, but many girls in the Swat Valley do not have access to education. In her descriptions of her studies, she relates how she memorized and recited religious texts, poetry, history, and even chemistry formulas. Her mother, who did not learn to read and write, can also recite many texts that she learned through hearing them. When I went to elementary school in the 70’s, we sometimes had to memorize a poem and recite it, but it was a rare occurrence. As an elementary teacher, I never asked my students to memorize texts, but they would learn many poems by authors such as Dennis Lee or Shel Silverstein because we read them out loud so often. For young students, “memory reading” a text that they had memorized was an important step in learning to read. So I am wondering, what role does memorization and recitation play in literacy learning? And can we consider someone illiterate who has memorized and can purposely refer to a large body of literature?