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Literacy Narrative Explained

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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The Power of Literacy Narratives

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I first learned to read at the age of three while sitting on my grandmother’s lap in her high-rise apartment on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, IL. While flipping casually through Time magazine, she noticed how I took a keen interest in the blur of black and white shapes on the page. Soon, I was following her wrinkled finger from one word to the next, sounding them out, until those words came into focus, and I could read. It felt as though I had unlocked time itself.

What Is a “Literacy Narrative?”

What are your strongest memories of reading and writing? These stories, otherwise known as “literacy narratives,” allow writers to talk through and discover their relationships with reading, writing, and speaking in all its forms. Narrowing in on specific moments reveals the significance of literacy’s impact on our lives, conjuring up buried emotions tied to the power of language, communication, and expression.

To be “ literate ” implies the ability to decode language on its most basic terms, but literacy also expands to one’s ability to "read and write" the world — to find and make meaning out of our relationships with texts, ourselves, and the world around us. At any given moment, we orbit language worlds. Soccer players, for example, learn the language of the game. Doctors talk in technical medical terms. Fishermen speak the sounds of the sea. And in each of these worlds, our literacy in these specific languages allows us to navigate, participate and contribute to the depth of knowledge generated within them.

Famous writers like Annie Dillard, author of "The Writing Life," and Anne Lammot, "Bird by Bird," have penned literacy narratives to reveal the highs and lows of language learning, literacies, and the written word. But you don’t have to be famous to tell your own literacy narrative — everyone has their own story to tell about their relationships with reading and writing. In fact, the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a publicly accessible archive of personal literacy narratives in multiple formats featuring over 6,000 entries. Each shows the range of subjects, themes, and ways into the literacy narrative process as well as variations in terms of voice, tone, and style.

How to Write Your Own Literacy Narrative

Ready to write your own literacy narrative but don’t know where to begin?

  • Think of a story linked to your personal history of reading and writing. Perhaps you want to write about your favorite author or book and its impact on your life. Maybe you remember your first brush with the sublime power of poetry. Do you remember the time you first learned to read, write or speak in another language? Or maybe the story of your first big writing project comes to mind. Make sure to consider why this particular story is the most important one to tell. Usually, there are powerful lessons and revelations uncovered in the telling of a literacy narrative.
  • Wherever you begin, picture the first scene that comes to mind in relation to this story, using descriptive details. Tell us where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing in this specific moment when your literacy narrative begins. For example, a story about your favorite book may begin with a description of where you were when the book first landed in your hands. If you’re writing about your discovery of poetry, tell us exactly where you were when you first felt that spark. Do you remember where you were when you first learned a new word in a second language?
  • Continue from there to explore the ways in which this experience had meaning for you. What other memories are triggered in the telling of this first scene? Where did this experience lead you in your writing and reading journey? To what extent did it transform you or your ideas about the world? What challenges did you face in the process? How did this particular literacy narrative shape your life story? How do questions of power or knowledge come into play in your literacy narrative?

Writing Toward a Shared Humanity

Writing literacy narratives can be a joyful process, but it can also trigger untapped feelings about the complexities of literacy. Many of us carry scars and wounds from early literacy experiences. Writing it down can help us explore and reconcile these feelings in order to strengthen our relationship with reading and writing. Writing literacy narratives can also help us learn about ourselves as consumers and producers of words, revealing the intricacies of knowledge, culture, and power bound up in language and literacies. Ultimately, telling our literacy stories brings us closer to ourselves and each other in our collective desire to express and communicate a shared humanity.​

Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein is a poet, writer, and educator from Chicago, IL (USA) who currently splits her time in East Africa. Her essays on arts, culture, and education appear in Teaching Artist Journal, Art in the Public Interest, Teachers & Writers Magazine, Teaching Tolerance, The Equity Collective, AramcoWorld, Selamta, The Forward, among others.

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100+ Best Literacy Narrative Essay Examples For Students 2024

100+ Best Literacy Narrative Essay Examples For Students 2024

“Have you ever heard of ‘Literacy Narrative Essay Examples’? Literacy is a magical gateway that includes essays about our most creative and interesting world literature.

Helen Keller once said, ‘The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.’ What she meant is that literacy is more than just reading and writing time to time. It’s about seeing the world in a whole new way, about dreaming big and finding your own voice through words.

In this blog, we’re mainly focusing on an incredible ‘Literacy Narrative Essay Examples.’ We’ll explore over 100 different narrative essay example topics for every student. These literacy narrative examples take us from school to college, college to doctoral degree in literacy, and from the past to the present.

Are you ready to explore the world of examples of literacy narratives? It might just change the way you see things and inspire you. Let’s dive into this amazing world together!”

Also Read: 189+ Interesting & Exciting Physics Project Ideas for College Students 2024

Table of Contents

What Is A Literacy Narrative Essay

A literacy narrative essay is basically related to a personal literacy story in an essay in which the author explains his or her history with the written and spoken word.

This essay style encourages expert writers to think back on their own personal experiences with reading and writing. They may discuss their earliest recollections of reading and writing, their experiences with books, instructors, and libraries, and the influence that reading and writing have had on their educational, occupational, and personal growth.

Essays of personal story literacy may be used for all three purposes. These essays are not only a method of personal storytelling but also a means of appreciating the significance of literacy in our lives, since they typically examine the struggles and changes that occur as a person becomes more skilled in reading and writing.

10 Different Types of Writing Styles

Following are the 10 Different Types of Writing Styles for writing a good Essay.

  • Narrative Writing
  • Descriptive Writing
  • Expository Writing
  • Persuasive Writing
  • Creative Writing
  • Technical Writing
  • Academic Writing
  • Journalistic Writing
  • Business Writing

What Is The Purpose of A Literacy Narrative

The main purpose of a Literacy Narrative essay is given below.

  • Self-Reflection
  • Personal Storytelling
  • Sharing Experiences
  • Exploring Growth and Development
  • Examining the Impact of Literacy
  • Expressing Personal Connection with Language
  • Demonstrating the Significance of Literacy
  • Building Empathy and Understanding
  • Inspiring Others
  • Celebrating the Power of Words

100+ Best Literacy Narrative Essay Examples For Students

Here are the 100+ Best Literacy Narrative Essay Examples For Students.

Easy Literature and Reading Essay Examples For Elementary School

  • The Book That Changed My Life
  • Discovering the World of Classic Literature
  • My Favorite Genre is mystery Novels
  • The Joy of Reading Poetry
  • How Audiobooks Reshaped My Reading Experience
  • The Impact of Libraries on My Reading Habits
  • The Influence of Literary Classics on My Writing
  • A Journey Through Shakespeare’s Works
  • The Role of Fiction in Shaping My Perspective
  • How I Fell in Love with Non-Fiction

Simple & Easy College Literacy Narrative Essay Examples

  • The Teacher Who Inspired My Love for Literature
  • The Adventures of Book Reports
  • Navigating Required Reading Lists
  • Writing Competitions and My Growth as a Writer
  • Learning to Write My Name
  • How I Overcame My Fear of Spelling Tests
  • The Impact of Creative Writing Workshops
  • Pen Pals and Cultural Exchange
  • The Evolution of My Handwriting
  • My First Day of School: A Memorable Literacy Experience

Interesting Literacy Narrative Essay Examples For Writing and Composition

  • The Joys and Challenges of Journaling
  • Blogging: My Digital Writing Playground
  • The Power of Personal Essays
  • Writing Poetry: Expressing Emotions Through Words
  • Learning the Art of Persuasive Writing
  • Exploring the World of Scriptwriting
  • Crafting My First Short Story
  • Keeping a Travel Journal: Chronicles of My Adventures
  • The Impact of Grammar Lessons on My Writing Skills
  • My Journey as a Creative Writer

Languages and Communication Essay Topics For Middle School

  • The Influence of Slang on My Language Skills
  • The Art of Writing Love Letters
  • The Power of Public Speaking
  • Learning Sign Language: A Unique Literacy Experience
  • Multilingualism and Cultural Awareness
  • Mastering the Art of Translation
  • The Beauty of Calligraphy
  • Writing Codes and Ciphers
  • The Art of Texting: A Modern Form of Communication
  • Bilingual Journey: Becoming Proficient in Two Languages

Digital Literacy and Technology Literacy Narrative Essay Examples

  • The Impact of Social Media on My Writing
  • Creating Memes: The New Form of Expression
  • How I Became a Tech-Savvy Writer
  • The Art of Blogging: From Hobby to Profession
  • YouTube and the Rise of Vlogging
  • The World of Podcasting: Finding My Voice
  • Digital Storytelling: A New Age Literacy Skill
  • The Role of Online Forums in My Writing Journey
  • Gaming and the Power of Interactive Storytelling
  • My First Email: A Digital Literacy Milestone

Good Cultural Literacy Narrative Essay Examples

  • Folklore and Cultural Identity
  • Learning About Different Cultures Through Food
  • My Connection with My Heritage Through Writing
  • The Significance of Oral Traditions
  • Religious Texts: A Source of Moral Values
  • Exploring Subcultures Through Literature
  • Music Lyrics and Their Impact on My Life
  • Documenting Family History Through Writing
  • Travel Diaries: Connecting with New Cultures
  • The Stories My Grandparents Shared

Incredible Workplace and Professional Literacy Narrative Essay Examples

  • Writing Resumes and Cover Letters: A Career Skill
  • The Art of Business Proposals
  • Writing for Academic and Professional Journals
  • Legal Writing: A World of Precision
  • Medical Records and Healthcare Literacy
  • The World of Technical Writing
  • Creative Writing in Marketing and Advertising
  • The Art of Grant Proposal Writing
  • The Power of Persuasion in Sales and Marketing
  • The Impact of Business Communication Courses

Personal Challenges and Triumphs

  • From Reluctant Reader to Avid Bibliophile
  • Literacy and Coping with Personal Challenges
  • Self-Improvement Through Self-Help Books
  • Writing to Heal: My Journey Through Trauma
  • Learning a New Alphabet: Braille and Accessibility
  • Writing to Connect with Loved Ones
  • Finding My Voice Through Writing
  • Becoming a Literate Parent
  • Literacy and Self-Discovery: A Journey Within
  • Overcoming Dyslexia: My Literacy Triumph

Historical and Societal Literacy Narrative Essay Examples

  • Exploring Civil Rights through Literature
  • Gender and Women’s Writing: Shaping My Feminist Beliefs
  • The Power of Literature in Social Movements
  • Journalism and Its Impact on Society
  • The Role of Propaganda in Shaping Public Opinion
  • Writing During Times of Conflict and War
  • Understanding Societal Issues Through Literature
  • Literature in the Age of Enlightenment
  • The Power of Satire in Political Writing
  • The Influence of Historical Documents on My Perspective

Literacy Narrative Essay Examples For Hobbies and Special Interests

  • How Cooking Recipes Enhanced My Literacy
  • The World of Hobbyist Writing: Gardening Journals
  • From Comic Book Fan to Graphic Novel Author
  • The Magic of Game Rulebooks
  • Model Building Instruction Manuals: A Unique Literacy
  • Nature Writing: Connecting with the Environment
  • Hiking and Trail Guides: Navigating the Great Outdoors
  • DIY Crafting: A Literacy Journey in Creativity
  • Musical Composition and Lyric Writing
  • The Art of Tattoo Design and Symbolism

How To Write Literacy Narrative Essay

These are the following steps for How To Write Literacy Narrative Essay Examples.

  • Choose a Personal Literacy Theme
  • Set the Scene with a Compelling Introduction
  • Describe Key Literacy Experiences
  • Share Personal Insights and Emotions
  • Reflect on the Impact of Literacy
  • Organize Your Essay Coherently
  • Use Vivid Descriptive Language
  • Incorporate Dialogue and Anecdotes
  • Conclude with a Reflective Closing
  • Revise and Edit for Clarity and Flow

Literacy Narrative Essay Examples Pdf

These are the Literacy Narrative Essay Sample pdf.

So, these are the main Literacy Narrative Essay Examples for college and high school students. Your own experiences are unique and valuable abilities in literacy, and they have the power to inspire and connect with others. By crafting a compelling literacy narrative essay, you can not only share your personal growth but also inspire others to embrace the power of words. So, grab your pen, open your laptop, and start writing your own literacy narrative today. Your story is waiting to be shared with the world.

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narrative essay on literacy

English Writing Guide

  • Literacy Narrative
  • Visual Analysis
  • Rhetorical Analysis
  • Argument Research Paper
  • The Writing Handbook
  • Using the Library


This guide is adapted from the Writing Guide with Handbook by OpenStax .

CC BY License

What is a literacy narrative?

  • The Writing Guide: Literacy Narrative Link to the online, interactive chapter on Literacy Narrative.
  • Literacy Narrative Chapter 3 from The Writing Guide As a PDF for downloading or printing.

Topics Covered

  • Identity and Expression
  • Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
  • Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
  • Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
  • Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
  • Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
  • Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
  • Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
  • Lecture Slides for Literacy Narrative As a PDF for downloading or printing.
  • How to Write a Literacy Narrative Guide with exercises to assist you in writing a literacy narrative.
  • Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives The DALN is an open public resource made up of stories from people just like you about their experiences learning to read, write, and generally communicate with the world around them.
  • Next: Visual Analysis >>
  • Last Updated: Jan 12, 2024 7:36 AM
  • URL: https://library.jeffersonstate.edu/Writing-Guide-OpenStax

How to Write a Literacy Narrative Essay | Guide & Examples

  • 14 April 2024
  • 24 min read

Mastering an art of writing requires students to have a guideline of how to write a good literacy narrative essay, emphasizing the details they should consider. This article begins by defining this type of academic document, its distinctive features, and its unique structure. Moreover, the guideline teaches students how to choose some topics and provides a sample outline and an example of a literacy narrative essay. Other crucial information is the technical details writers should focus on when writing a document, 10 things to do and not to do, and essential tips for producing a high-standard text. Therefore, reading this guideline benefits students and others because one gains critical insights that help to start writing a literacy narrative essay and want to meet a scholarly standard.

General Aspects of How to Write an Outstanding Literacy Narrative Essay

Learning how to write many types of essays should be a priority for any student hoping to be intellectually sharp. Besides being an exercise for academic assessment, writing is a platform for developing mental faculties, including intellect, memory, imagination, reason, and intuition. This guideline of how to write a literacy narrative, and this type of essay requires students to tell their story through the text. It defines a literacy narrative, distinctive text features, unique structure, possible topics students can choose from, and the technicality of writing this kind of text. There is also a sample outline and an example of a good literacy narrative essay. Hence, this guideline gives students critical insights for writing a high-standard literacy narrative essay.

How to Write a Literacy Narrative Essay | Guide & Examples

Definition of What Is a Literacy Narrative Essay and Its Meaning

A literacy narrative is an essay that tells the writer’s personal story. It differs from other types of papers , including an argumentative essay , an analytical essay , a cause and effect essay , a report , or a research paper . While these other texts require students to borrow information from different sources to strengthen a thesis statement and back up claims, a literacy narrative means that students narrate an experience or event that has impacted them significantly. In other words, writers focus on one or several aspects of their lives and construct a story through the text. Therefore, when writing a literacy narrative essay, students should examine and reexamine their life course to identify experiences, events, or issues that stand out because they were pleasant or unpleasant. After identifying a memorable aspect of their life, students should use their accumulated knowledge to construct a narrative through speaking, reading, or writing.

Distinctive Features of a Literacy Narrative Essay

Every type of scholarly text has distinctive features that differentiate it from others. While some features may be standard among academic papers, most are not. Therefore, when writing a literacy narrative essay, students must first familiarize themselves with the features that make this kind of document distinct from others, like reports and research papers. With such knowledge, writers can know when to use an element when telling their personal stories through writing. Some distinctive features of a literacy narrative essay include a personal tone, a private tale, descriptive language, show-not-tell, active voice, similes and metaphors, and dialogue .

💠 Personal Tone

A personal tone is a quality that makes a narrative personal, meaning it is the writer telling the story. In this respect, students should use the first-person language, such as ‘I’ and ‘we,’ throughout the story. Using these terms makes the audience realize that the story is about the writer and those close to them, such as family, peers, and colleagues. The value of using a personal tone in writing a literacy narrative essay is that it reinforces the story’s theme, such as celebration or tragedy. In essence, people hearing, listening, or reading the story can appreciate its direct effect on the reader, speaker, or writer.

💠 Private Story

The essence of a literacy narrative essay is to tell a personal story. In this respect, telling people about a private experience, event, or issue gives this kind of text a narrative identity. Although the story people tell need not be about them, they must have been witnesses. For example, one can write a literacy narrative essay about their worst experience after joining college. Such a narrative should tell a private story involving the writer directly. Alternatively, people can write a literacy narrative essay about the day they witnessed corruption in public office. Such a narrative should not necessarily focus on the writer but on corrupt individuals in public office. Therefore, a private story should have the writer as the central character or a witness to an event.

💠 Descriptive Language

Since a literacy narrative essay is about a personal, private story that tells the writer’s experience, it is critical to provide details that help the audience to identify with the experience. Individuals can only do this activity by using descriptive language in their stories because the audience uses the information to imagine what they hear or read. An example of descriptive language is where, instead of writing, “I passed my aunt by the roadside as I headed home to inform others about the event,” one should write, “As I headed home to inform others about the happening, I came across my aunt standing on the roadside with a village elder in what seemed like a deep conversation about the event that had just transpired.” This latter statement is rich with information the audience can use to imagine the situation.

💠 Show-Not-Tell

A literacy narrative essay aims to help the audience to recreate the writer’s experience in their minds. As such, they focus less on telling the audience what happened and more on ‘showing’ them how events unfolded. A practical method for doing this activity is comprehensively narrating experiences and events. For example, authors should not just write about how an experience made them feel, but they should be thorough in their narration by telling how the feeling affected them, such as influencing them to do something. As a result, a literacy narrative essay allows writers to show the audience how past experiences, events, or situations affected them or influenced their worldviews.

💠 Active Voice

Academic writing conventions demand that students write non-scientific scholarly documents, including literacy narrative essays, in the active voice, meaning writing in a form where the subject of a sentence performs the action. Practically, it should follow the following format: subject + verb + object. For example, this arrangement makes the sentence easy to read but, most importantly, keeps meanings in sentences clear and avoids complicating sentences or making them too wordy. The opposite of the active voice is the passive voice, which is common in scientific papers. The following sentence exemplifies the active voice: “The young men helped the old lady climb the stairs.” A passive voice would read: “The old woman was helped by the young men to climb up the stairs.” As is evidence, the active voice is simple, straightforward, and short as opposed to the passive voice.

💠 Similes and Metaphors

Similes and metaphors are literary devices or figures of speech writers use to compare two things that are not alike in literacy narrative essays. The point of difference between these aspects is that similes compare two things by emphasizing one thing is like something else, while metaphors emphasize one thing is something else. Simply put, similes use the terms ‘is like’ or ‘is as…as’ to emphasize comparison between two things. A metaphor uses the word ‘is’ to highlight the comparison. Therefore, when writing a literary narrative essay, students should incorporate similes by saying, “Friendship is like a flowery garden,” meaning friendship is pleasant. An example of a metaphor one can use is the statement: “My uncle’s watch is a dinosaur,” meaning it is ancient, a relic.

Dialogue is communication between two or more people familiar with plays, films, or novels. The purpose of this kind of communication is to show the importance of an issue to different people. Generally, discussions are the most common platforms for dialogue because individuals can speak their minds and hear what others say about the same problem. Dialogue is a distinctive feature of a literacy narrative essay because it allows writers to show-not-tell. Authors can show readers how their interaction with someone moved from pleasant to unpleasant through dialogue. Consequently, dialogue can help readers to understand the writer’s attitudes, mindset, or state of mind during an event described in the text. As such, incorporating a dialogue in a literacy narrative essay makes the text personal to the writer and descriptive to the reader.

Unique Structure of a Literacy Narrative Essay

Besides the distinctive features above, a literacy narrative is distinct from other types of scholarly documents because it has a unique essay structure . In academic writing, a text’s structure denotes essay outline that writers adopt to produce the work. For example, it is common knowledge that essays should have three sections: introduction, body, and conclusion . In the same way, literacy narratives, which also follow this outline, have a structure, which students should demonstrate in the body. The structure addresses a literacy issue, solution, lesson, and summary . This structure allows writers to produce a coherent paper that readers find to have a logical flow of ideas.

1️⃣ Literacy Issue

A literacy issue signifies a problem or struggles for the writer and is the personal or private issue that the narrative focuses on. Ideally, students use this issue to give the audience a sneak peek into their personalities and private life. Most literacy issues are personal experiences involving a problem or struggle and their effect on the writer and those close to them, like family members or friends. Therefore, when writing a literacy narrative essay, students should identify personal problems or struggles in their past and make them the paper’s focal subject.

2️⃣ Solution

The solution element in a literacy narrative essay describes how writers overcame their problems or managed personal struggles. Simply put, it is where authors tell and show readers how they solved the personal, private issue that is the paper’s subject. Such information is crucial to readers because they need to know what happened to the writer, who they see as the hero or protagonist of the story. For example, literacy narratives are informative because they show the audience how writers dealt with a problem or struggle and how they can use the same strategy to overcome their examples. From this perspective, students should write a literacy narrative essay to inform and empower readers through insights that are relevant and applicable to one’s life.

The lesson element is the message readers get from the writer’s narrative about a literacy issue and its solution. For example, students can talk about how lacking confidence affects their social life by undermining their ability to create and nurture friendships. This problem is personal and becomes a literacy issue. Then, they show readers how they dealt with the situation, such as reading books and articles on building personal confidence. Writers should use practical examples of how they solved their problems or struggles. Overall, including all the information about the unique situation or struggle and the solution helps readers to learn a lesson, what they take away after reading the text. As such, students should know that their literacy narrative essays must have a lesson for their readers.

4️⃣ Summary

The summary element briefly describes a personal experience and its effects. Every literacy narrative essay must summarize the writer’s experience to allow readers to judge, such as learning the value of something. When summarizing their personal story, such as an experience, students should understand that the summary must be brief but detailed enough to allow readers to put themselves in their place. In other words, the summary must be relevant to the reader and the broader society. The most crucial element in the summary is emphasizing the lesson from the personal issue by telling how the writer addressed the personal issue.

Examples of Famous Literacy Narrative Essays

Research is an essential activity that helps writers to find credible sources to support their work. When writing literacy narrative essays, students should adopt this approach to find famous literacy narratives and discover what makes them popular in the literary world. Students should focus on how writers adopt the unique structure described above. The list below highlights five popular literacy narratives because they are high-standard texts.

Learning to Read by Malcolm X

Malcolm X’s Learning to Read is a literacy narrative that describes his journey to enlightenment. The text reflects the unique structure of a literacy narrative because it communicates a personal issue, the solution to the problem, a lesson to the reader, and a summary of the writer’s experience. For example, the literacy issue is the writer’s hardships that inspired his journey to becoming a literate activist. After dropping from school at a young age, Malcolm X committed a crime that led to his imprisonment. The solution to his hardships was knowledge, and he immersed himself in education by reading in the prison library, gaining essential knowledge that helped him to confront his reality. The lesson is that education is transformative, and people can educate themselves from ignorance to enlightenment. The summary is that personal struggles are a ladder to more extraordinary life achievements.

Scars: A Life in Injuries by David Owen

David Owen’s Scars: A Life in Injuries is a literacy narrative that adopts the unique structure above. The literacy issue in the story is Owen’s scars, including over ten injuries and witnessing Duncan’s traumas. For example, the solution that the article proposes for dealing with personal scars is finding a purpose in each. The text describes how Owen saw each scar not as bad but as something that gave him a reason to live. The lesson is that scars are not just injuries but stories people can tell others to give hope and a reason for living. The summary is that life’s misfortunes should not be a reason to give up but a motivation to press on. It clarifies that, while misfortunes can lead to despair, one must be bold enough to see them as scars, not disabilities.

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son reflects the writer’s tense relationship with his father in the context of racial tension that gripped New York City in the mid-20th century. The story fits the unique structure of a literacy narrative. The personal issue in the text is the writer’s tense relationship with his father. The solution to this struggle is accepting life as it is and humans as they are, not struggling to change anyone or anything. For example, the lesson in the text is that the family can cause pain and anguish, and the best people can do is not to let others influence their feelings, attitude, behaviors, or motivations in life. The summary is that people’s struggles are a fire that sparks a revolution of ideas that uplift them and others in the broader society.

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father is the story of the writer’s search for his biracial identity that satisfies the unique structure of a literacy narrative. For example, the personal issue in the text is Obama’s desire to understand the forces that shaped him and his father’s legacy, which propelled him to travel to Kenya. The journey exposed him to brutal poverty and tribal conflict and a community with an enduring spirit. The solution to this personal struggle is becoming a community organizer in the tumultuous political and racial strife that birthed despair in the inner cities. The reader learns that community is valuable in healing wounds that can lead to distress. The summary is that family is crucial to one’s identity, and spending time to know one’s background is helpful for a purposeful and meaningful life.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast recalls the writer’s time in Paris during the 1920s. The personal issue in the text is dealing with a changing Paris. The solution to the writer’s struggle was to build a network of friends and use them as a study. For example, the text summarizes the writer’s story by discussing his relationships, including befriending Paul Cézanne, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott  Fitzgerald. He found some unpleasant and others very hedonistic. The reader learns from the text that friendships are vital in one’s professional journey because they provide insights into the attitudes that make up the human community. The summary is that one’s friendships are crucial in social and intellectual development, despite the weaknesses of some friends.

Topic Examples for Writing a Good Literacy Narrative Essay

Since students may get a chance to write a literacy narrative essay, they should learn how to choose good essay topics . Typically, students receive instructions specifying the topic, but, sometimes, such specifications may be lacking. In such an instance, one must know how to choose a good theme from lists of popular narrative essay topics or personal essay topics . For example, the best approach in selecting a subject is to read widely while noting valuable ideas. These aspects are a good starting point when deciding the subject of a literacy narrative essay. The following list provides easy topics for this kind of scholarly paper because they require students to tell a personal story, addressing the elements of the unique structure.

  • Overcoming a Fear That Changed My Life
  • A Memorable Day in Winter
  • My Experience in an Adventure in Africa
  • The Greatest Lessons in Friendship
  • My Family Is My Anchor
  • The Day I Will Never Forget
  • My Life as a Community Advocate
  • Delving Into the Enigma of Alternate Universes: A Hypothetical Journey

Sample Outline Template for Writing a Literacy Narrative Essay

I. College Essay Introduction

  • A hook : An exciting statement to grab the reader’s attention.
  • Background of the topic.
  • A thesis that states the topic’s significance to the writer and reader.

A. Literacy Issue:

  • State the literacy issue that signifies a personal problem, struggle, or issue.

B. Solution

  • Give some background information about the literacy issue.
  • Describe the setting of the literacy issue.
  • Mention some characters involved in solving the literacy issue.
  • Give a short story about the literacy issue and its significance.

D. Summary:

  • State the outcomes of the literacy issue through detailed language.

III. Conclusion Examples

  • Restate the thesis.
  • State the outcome and the lesson.

Example of a Literacy Narrative Essay

Topic: My Life as a Community Advocate

I. Example of an Introduction of a Literacy Narrative Essay

Community service is a noble idea that should form part of every person’s life mantra. The context of community is the myriad social issues that may undermine people’s quality of life without adequate interventions. My life as a community advocate is about how I have helped to address social issues without holding any public office, evidence that all one needs is love, concern, focus, and commitment.

II. Examples of Body Paragraphs of a Literacy Narrative Essay

A. literacy issue sample paragraph.

Community service is a noble duty every person should view as an intervention against social problems that potentially undermine the quality of life of vulnerable groups in society, such as children, persons living with disabilities, and senior citizens. Community advocacy is standing up for the community in critical forums where decision-makers gather. As such, my life as a community advocate involves attending community meetings, political gatherings, seminars, and any association that consists of an interaction between ordinary people and those in leadership. My goal in such meetings is to raise issues affecting vulnerable groups in my community, which need more attention from local, state, or national leadership.

B. Solution Sample Paragraph

My life as a community advocate happens in the community where I live and any place where leaders with the power to change the community’s political, economic, and social architecture gather. In this respect, people involved in my role as a community advocate include elected leaders at the local, state, and national levels and leaders of various groups, including senior citizens and persons with disabilities. I also interact with school administrators, social workers, and health professionals like psychologists. These people are valuable in providing insights into different groups’ challenges and what is missing to make their lives satisfactory, if not better. It is common knowledge that vulnerable groups are significantly disadvantaged across dimensions of life, including employment, healthcare, and leadership. Therefore, my life as a community advocate focuses on being a voice for these groups in forums where those with the potential to improve their experiences and outcomes are present.

C. Lesson Sample Paragraph

An event that makes me proud of being a community advocate is when I helped to create a school-based program for children from low-income households below the age of five in my county. The program’s objective was to feed children and provide essential amenities they lacked due to their parent’s or guardians’ economic circumstances. Over time, I have learned that several counties across the state have adopted the program and made the lives of vulnerable children promising.

D. Summary Sample Paragraph

I took part in activities and improved the quality of health support for children. I have learned from several clinicians and social workers that children in the program have shown improved scores in body immunity because of good nutrition. Such news makes me proud to be a community advocate and continue being a voice for the voiceless in a society where politicians have prioritized self-interests in local, state, and national leadership.

III. Example of a Conclusion of a Literacy Narrative Essay

My life as a community advocate has shown me that people can solve social problems without minding their position in the community. The only tools I have used are love, concern, focus, and commitment to make the lives of vulnerable groups satisfactory, if not better. Looking back, I feel proud knowing I have helped vulnerable children to experience a life they may have missed if no one showed love and care. My community advocacy is evidence that people can solve social problems by caring.

4 Easy Steps for Writing a Great Literacy Narrative Essay

Writing a literacy narrative essay is a technical exercise that involves several steps. Each step requires writers to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of how to write this type of scholarly document. In essence, the technical details of writing a good literacy narrative essay are the issues one must address in each step of writing: preparation, stage setup, writing a first draft, and wrap-up. Although not every detail applies in a literacy narrative, most do, and students must grasp all for an improved understanding of what writing a high-standard academic document means.

Step 1: Preparation

Preparation is the first step in starting a literacy narrative essay. One technical detail students should address is defining a specific topic. Typically, instructors choose the topic, but students can select one if such a specification is lacking. For example, the best way to choose a topic is research, where one searches for documents, including famous narratives, on the Internet, using online databases. The second technical detail is to generate ideas, which means reading reliable sources while making notes. In this task, one should consider the audience to determine whether to use simple or technical language.

Step 2: Stage Set Up

Setting the stage is the second step in writing a literacy narrative essay. The first technical detail one needs to address is to create a well-organized outline according to the one above. For example, this task helps writers to assess their ideas to see whether they are sufficient for each paper section. The second technical detail is gathering stories by recalling experiences and events significantly affecting one’s life. The last technical point is constructing a hook, a statement that will help the text to grab readers’ attention from the start.

Step 3: Writing a First Draft

Writing a first draft of a literacy narrative essay is the third step in this activity. The first technical detail students should address is creating a draft. This text is the first product of the writing process and helps writers to judge their work. For example, the main issue is whether they have used all the ideas to construct a compelling narrative. The answer will determine if they will add new ideas or delete some, meaning adding or deleting academic sources. Whatever the outcome, writers may have to alter clear outlines to fit all the ideas necessary to make papers compelling and high-standard.

Writing an Introduction for a Literacy Analysis Essay

Students should focus on three outcomes when writing a good introduction: a hook, context, and thesis. The hook is a statement that captures the reader’s attention. As such, one must use a quote, fact, or question that triggers the reader’s interest to want to read more. Context is telling readers why the topic is vital to write about. A thesis is a statement that summarizes the writer’s purpose for writing a literacy narrative essay.

Writing a Body for a Literacy Analysis Essay

Writing the body part of a literacy narrative essay requires addressing the essential elements of a unique structure. The first element is to state a personal issue and make it the center of the narrative. The best approach is to look into the past and identify an experience or event with a lasting impact. The second element is a solution to the problem or struggle resulting from the personal issue. Therefore, writers should identify personal problems that expose them to conflict with others or social structures and systems. The third element is a lesson, how the personal issue and the solution affect the writer and potentially the reader. The last element is a summary, where authors conclude by giving readers a life perspective relating to the personal story.

Writing a Conclusion for a Literacy Analysis Essay

When writing a conclusion part for a literacy narrative essay, students should summarize the story by reemphasizing the thesis, the personal issue, and the lesson learned. Ideally, the goal of this section is not to introduce new ideas but reinforce what the paper has said and use the main points to conclude the story. As such, writers should not leave readers with questions but give information that allows them to draw a good lesson from the text.

Step 4: Wrap Up

The last step in writing a literacy narrative essay is wrapping up a final draft. The first technical detail students should address is revising the sections without a logical order of ideas. Ideally, one should read and reread their work to ensure the sentences and paragraphs make logical sense. For example, this task should ensure all body paragraphs have a topic sentence , a concluding sentence, and a transition. The next technical detail is editing a final draft by adding or deleting words and fixing grammar and format errors. Lastly, writers should confirm that a literary narrative essay adopts a single formatting style from beginning to end. Content in literacy narratives includes block quotes and dialogue. Students should format them appropriately as follows:

  • Block quotes: Select the text to quote, click “Layout” on the ribbon, set the left indent to 0.5cm, click the “Enter” key, then use the arrows in the indent size box to increase or decrease the indentation.
  • Dialogue: Use quotation marks to start and end spoken dialogue and create a new paragraph for each speaker.

20 Tips for Writing a Literacy Narrative Essay

Writing a literacy narrative essay requires students to learn several tips. These elements include choosing topics that are meaningful to the writer, generating ideas from the selected themes and putting them in sentence form, creating a clear outline and populating it with the ideas, writing the first draft that reflects the unique structure (literacy issue, solution, lesson, and summary), reading and rereading the draft, revising and editing the draft to produce a high-quality literacy narrative essay, proofreading the document.

10 things to do when writing a literacy narrative essay include:

  • developing a hook to grab the readers’ attention,
  • writing in paragraphs ,
  • using the correct grammar,
  • incorporating verbs that trigger the reader’s interest,
  • showing rather than telling by using descriptive language,
  • incorporating a dialogue,
  • varying sentence beginnings,
  • following figurative speech,
  • formatting correctly,
  • rereading the text.

10 things not to do include:

  • choosing an irrelevant topic that does not stir interest in the reader,
  • presenting a long introduction,
  • providing a thesis that does not emphasize a personal issue,
  • writing paragraphs without topic sentences and transitions,
  • ignoring the unique structure of a literacy narrative essay (literacy issue, solution, lesson, and summary),
  • focusing on too many personal experiences or events,
  • using several formatting styles,
  • writing sentences without logical sense,
  • finalizing a document with multiple grammatical and formatting mistakes,
  • not concluding the narrative by reemphasizing the thesis and lesson learned.

Summing Up on How to Write a Perfect Literacy Narrative Essay

  • For writing a good literacy narrative essay, think of a personal experience or an event with a lasting impact.
  • Use descriptive language to narrate the experience or event.
  • Identify a conflict in the experience or event.
  • State how the conflict shaped your perspective.
  • Provide a solution to the conflict.
  • Mention the setting of the personal experience or event, including people or groups involved.
  • State the significance of the experience or event to people and groups involved and the broader society.

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Literacy is experience, competency, and skill in communication. Literacy begins with language acquisition; learning words and speaking is the earliest form of productive communication. Developing listening and reading comprehension is classified as receptive communication. The acquisition of writing skills is a form of productive communication. Both types of communication are tools for learning. The definition of literacy has evolved through cultural change from oral, reading, and writing to include visual, musical, technical, numeracy, and information literacies.

To describe literacy, what other literacies would you include that facilitate learning?

A literacy narrative is a type of autobiographical essay that often tells the story of learning to read or write. It is reflective writing that describes the process and growth of learning. Narratives are a way of telling a personal story through remembrance and introspection.

A literacy narrative is based on life events. This means it is your experience of literacy, you may or may not love to read and write. Tell your story. To describe what you experienced, consider how to include specific details, who, what, when, where, why, and how.

  • Who taught you?
  • What changed or made an impact on learning?
  • Recount a memory of the time when developing literacy made a difference.
  • To describe where may include a place and/or an emotional state.
  • Explain why it matters.
  • Describe how literacy met a want or need and/or how it worked out.

Telling the Story

  • Describe the setting of a main event.
  • Blend in sensory images of sights, sounds, textures, smells, and tastes that manifest a personal experience.
  • Incorporate dialogue, including what was said can add an emotional connection to a narrative.
  • Include situations that build the plot: introduction, challenge, complication, inspiration, revelation, resolution to organize and add interest.

Stories are most often told in chronological order. Consider if that is the best way to tell the story.

  • Chronologically, from beginning to end.
  • Start in the middle.
  • Start at the end.

Read your assignment and rubric to note the criteria, markers of quality, and rating scale and scoring before brainstorming your approach to the literacy narrative.

  • If the assignment and rubric do not make clear what the professor expects, take the opportunity to ask questions.
  • Typical criteria include writing style, focus, length, and due date(s).
  • Typical quality markers include  clear  language and error-free, consistent organization, context, audience, purpose, evaluation, critical thinking.
  • Typical rating scale may include how criteria determines elements of the narrative from mastery to inadequate.
  • Last Updated: Mar 3, 2022 1:29 PM
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How to Write a Literacy Narrative – Explained With Examples

A literacy narrative is a form of free writing that brings life experiences into account.

How to Write a Literacy Narrative (with Examples)

Piece of Advice

It is easy to write in difficult words, but difficult to write in easy words. ― Anonymous

A literacy narrative is a first-hand narrative about reading, writing, teaching, and composing in any form of context. It is a form of autobiographical writing such as an essay, which can help you learn and evaluate the role of literacy in your life. It can unravel your attitudes and abilities, along with how you have developed as a reader, writer, thinker, and communicator.

It can prompt you to explore and reminisce the choices, moments, experiences, or stages of your personal development. It will also help you realize your growth in terms of writing, reading, communicating, thinking, and even listening.

It allows you to be face to face with your life’s influential events, scenes, people, stages in your life, turning points, epiphanies, failures, successes, passages into new, different kinds of language, reading, writing, communication, and thinking. It can be sad, happy, remorseful, funny, informative, incidental, etc.

It could also be an account of your triumphs, when someone gave you a chance, or you lost chances, and life’s lessons that you learned or that were taught to you by people at the church, school, performances, presentations, etc.

Tips for Writing a Literacy Narrative

You need to remember that literacy narratives are theme-based and open-formed, and do not have a strict structure or thesis.

✑ Choose a topic that means something to you. You could write about personal challenges like overcoming difficulties, early memories of listening to a story or reading it, or simply write about your favorite book, poem, etc.

✑ Make a list of a few ideas that you would like to cover in your literacy narrative. These should be written in a sentence form. This is because a literacy narrative is not just about writing about your favorite literature, it is more personal than that. It is about realizing why you liked reading the literature, what attracted you to it, etc.

✑ Begin writing the first draft of your very first literacy narrative. Do not go astray from your topic; stay focused on the theme. If you are unsure about your theme, work on it simultaneously.

✑ Revise the draft and clear any mistakes that you’ve made.

✑ Use a lot of imagery as this will transform your audiences to your memory, allowing them to connect to you, your experiences, and events. This method is also known as reflecting.

✑ Describe everything well and use other sensory details, viz., smell, touch, and taste.

✑ Give a suitable title for the paper.

✑ Include some dialogs as this keeps the reader/listener captivated to the literature.

✑ Get a peer to review it.

✑ If required, reedit your literacy narrative with the help of your seniors, parents, teachers, etc.

✑ Give it another good read and you are done writing your literacy narrative.

Things to Remember

You will need to ask the following questions time and again while and after writing your narrative.

✑ What do I want to do? What do I want to convey?

✑ What were the crucial moments and details in the event?

✑ Does my literacy narrative have a title?

✑ Am I staying on the topic?

✑ Does this make sense to someone who doesn’t know anything about me or a literacy narrative?

✑ Describe the characters and settings well.

✑ Does it have an open-form structure?

✑ Is it generic or does it have some personal experiences?

✑ Have I used sufficient examples?

✑ Is it appropriate for my audience? As in, is the diction, tone, and language appropriate for the purpose of my literacy narrative? Is it too casual or too formal?

✑ Is it clear? Are the terminologies, examples, events, etc., understandable?

An Example of a Literacy Narrative

Power of a prayer.

One winter, when I was eight years old, my father and I had taken a ride to aunt Sally’s house. Halfway back home, the car began to wobble and slow down. Dad realized that the car had a flat tire. To make things worse, we were stranded in the middle of a snowstorm. I could hear the helplessness in my dad’s voice as he said, “We could sure use a Christmas miracle right about now.” I remember how much I detested that old red car, mainly because the radio didn’t work. Nothing really worked in that car, but luckily, dad got his miracle! The heater suddenly sprung into action and we were quiet thankful that we didn’t freeze to death. We waited there in the middle of nowhere for someone to come along and help us out.

The cold wind started blowing in through the little gap in the door frame and the window. It whistled and moaned and scared me half to death. The breeze that blew in was pricking my nose and cheeks. I could smell the pine tree in the air; given the fact that we had one tied to the roof, Christmas was just a few days away. Dad and I both began search for some way to clog that thin gap to keep the cold out. As I reached into my jacket pocket, I realized there was a piece of folded paper in it. I pulled it out, only to realize that it was the lyrics of the carol, Hallelujah. I was overcome with the sudden burst of the singing spell, and I began to sing it. Dad too pitched in now and then. By the time I sang Hallelujah after the second verse, the cold winds had stopped. As we sang, “… and every breath we drew was hallelujah”, we heard a familiar honk coming from behind us. And what do you know, it was my Uncle Mitch coming our way with help!

Topics for a Literacy Narrative

✑ What is your earliest memory of learning to read or write?

✑ Which story or book was significant to you in your adolescent life?

✑ Who taught you to write?

✑ How did your attitude towards reading and writing develop?

✑ The first time I wrote a letter/love letter/poem/novel.

✑ The time I won or lost a crucial debate.

✑ The time I forgot my lines in a play.

✑ The first time you wrote something on your own.

✑ My favorite bedtime story as a child.

✑ The time I felt like an illiterate.

✑ The time I won a prize for reading/writing.

✑ The time I got my first computer/Facebook account/e-mail account, etc.

✑ The first time I recited holy scriptures at the church/temple/or at my Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

Remember this little piece of advice―you can write anything using a complex and difficult language. But, the point behind your writing will not be achieved if the listener/reader of your work is unable to comprehend it. Keep your language clear, plain, and simple as this will help your message to be understood easily.

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1 Literacy Narrative

The foundation of our course is built on the ability to read closely and critically. To engage with this skill, and the multiple literacies we navigate on a daily basis, this first major essay is a personal piece in which you will explore a significant moment regarding your own literacy; you may approach literacy either in the traditional sense or using our expanded, modern definition. 

Course objectives

  • Develop rhetorical knowledge
  • Develop critical and creative thinking
  • Develop experience in writing Recall previous experience with various types of reading

Module objectives

During the process of completing this assignment, writers will:

  • Recall previous experience with various types of reading
  • Identify personal goals for academic reading and writing
  • Distinguish the different purposes for academic reading and writing
  • Give examples of familiar genres


Assignment Sheet – Literacy Narrative

The foundation of this course is built on your ability to read closely and critically. To engage with this skill, and the multiple literacies we navigate on a daily basis, this first major essay is a personal piece in which you will explore a significant moment regarding your own literacy; you may approach literacy either in the traditional sense or using our expanded, modern definition.

Literacy is a key component of academic success, as well as professional success. In this class and others, you will be asked to read and engage with various types of texts, so the purpose of this assignment is twofold. First, this assignment will allow you to write about something important to you, using an open form and personal tone instead of an academic one, allowing you to examine some of your deepest convictions and experiences and convey these ideas in a compelling way through writing. Second, this essay provides us an opportunity to get to know each other as a class community.

For this assignment you should imagine your audience to be an academic audience. Your audience will want a good understanding of your literacy, past, present, or future, and how you seek to comprehend the texts around you.


Choose ONE prompt below to tell about an important time in your life when you engaged with or were confronted with literacy, using the traditional or broad definition. We’ll discuss various types of literacy, so you will identify and define the type of literacy you’re discussing.

  • Describe a situation when you were challenged in your reading by describing the source of that challenge (vocabulary, length, organization, something else). How did you overcome that challenge to understand what the text was saying? What strategies or steps do you plan to take in the future to make the process easier?
  • Describe the type of texts you read (watch, listen to, etc.) most often. What makes them easy or challenging to read and interpret? What strategies do you use to ensure that you fully understand them or can apply them?
  • Describe what kind of texts you think you will have to read or interpret in the future and where you will encounter these texts (i.e. future classes, your career, etc.). How do you think they might challenge you? What strategies will you use to overcome these difficulties?


  • Narratives should be between 500-600 words (around 2-3 pages). Be concise, and choose your details carefully.
  • Your work must be typed in size 12, Times New Roman font and double spaced, 1” margins, following MLA requirements.

Week 1: Introducing Rhetoric

The foundation of our course is built on your ability to read closely and critically. To engage with this skill, and the multiple literacies we navigate on a daily basis, this project is a personal piece in which you will explore a significant moment regarding your own literacy; you may approach literacy either in the traditional sense or using our expanded, modern definition.

Exploring Literacy

What comes to mind when you hear the term “ literacy “? Traditionally, we can define literacy as the ability to read and write. To be literate is to be a reader and writer. More broadly, this term has come to be used in other fields and specialties and refers generally to an ability or competency.

For example, you could refer to music literacy as the ability to read and write music; there are varying levels of literacy, so while you may recognize the image below as a music staff and the symbols for musical notes, it’s another thing to name the notes, to play any or multiple instruments, or to compose music.

Photo of sheet music

Or, you may be a casual football fan, but to be football literate , you would need to be able to understand and read the playbook, have an understanding of the positions, define terms like “offsides” or “holding” as they relate to the sport, and interpret the hand signals used by the referees.

Educator and writer Shaelynn Faarnsworth describes and defines literacy as “social” and “constantly changing.” In this unit, we’ll explore literacy as a changing, dynamic process. By expanding our definition of literacy, we’ll come to a better understanding of our skills as readers and writers. We’ll use this discussion so that you, as writers, can better understand and write about “…what skills [you] get and what [you] don’t, [and include your] interests, passions, and quite possibly YouTube.”

Checking In: Questions and Activities

  • Consider our expanded definition of literacy . In what ways are you literate?
  • When, where, and how do you read and write on a daily basis?
  • Thinking of traditional literacy (reading and writing), what successes or challenges have you faced in school, at home, in the workplace, etc.?

Close Reading Strategies: Introducing the Conversation Model

Reading is a necessary step in the writing process. One helpful metaphor for the writing process is the conversation model. Imagine approaching a group of friends who are in the middle o

Graphic illustrating the conversation model

f an intense discussion. Instead of interrupting and blurting out the first thing you think of, you would listen. Then as you listen, you may need to ask questions to catch up and gain a better understanding of what has already been said. Finally, once you have this thorough understanding, you can feel prepared to add your ideas, challenge, and further the conversation.

Similarly, when writing, the first step is to read. Like listening, this helps you understand the topic better and approach the issues you’re discussing with more knowledge. With that understanding, you can start to ask more specific questions, look up definitions, and start to do more driven research. With all that information, then you can offer a new perspective on what others have already written. As you write, you may go through this process — listening, researching, and writing — several times!

This unit focuses first on the importance of reading. There are two important ways we’ll think about reading in this course. Close reading and critical reading are both important processes with difference focuses. Close reading is a process to understand what is being said. It’s often used in summaries, where the goal is to comprehend and report on what a text is communicating. Compared to critical reading, an analytical process focused on how and why an idea is presented, close reading forces us to slow down and identify the meaning of the information. This skill is especially important in summaries and accurately quoting and paraphrasing.

Close reading, essentially, is like listening to the conversation. Both focus on comprehension and being able to understand and report back on what is written or said. In this project,

  • Within close reading, your processes could be further broken down into pre-reading, active reading, and post-reading strategies. What do you focus on before and after you read a text?
  • Have your instructors asked you to annotate a text?
  • Do you find yourself copying down important lines, highlighting, or making notes as you read?
  • What strategies do you rely on to actively and closely read?
  • What are your least favorite strategies?

The Rhetorical Situation

You may have heard of “rhetorical questions” or gotten frustrated watching the news when a commentator dismisses another by saying “that’s just empty rhetoric” — but what does rhetoric mean? With definitions dating back to Aristotle and Plato, this is a complex concept with many historical and contemporary definitions. We define rhetoric as the ways language and other communication strategies are used to achieve a purpose with an audience. Below, we’ll explore the rhetorical situation, examining how many different factors contribute to how a writer can achieve their goals, and what may influence them to make different decisions.

Graphic depiction of the rhetorical situation

The rhetorical situation is composed of many interactive pieces that each depend on the other. Let’s start by defining each component:

  • Ask yourself: Who created this?
  • Ask yourself: Who is likely to, or supposed to, see this?
  • Ask yourself: What am I looking at?
  • Ask yourself: Why was the text created?
  • Ask yourself: When was this created? How did it get developed? Where was the text published? What shaped the creative process?

Each of these categories intersects and influences the other. When we think about a complete rhetorical situation, you’ll need to define all these different pieces to best understand the text. As we begin practicing close reading, drawing the rhetorical situation will be a helpful tool.

Let’s examine this project, the literacy narrative.

  • Author : You! While you have a unique background, you’re a student in this course, and your individual writing experience will influence what you write about.
  • Audience : Your classmates and instructor. This is a collaborative course, and your instructor will read what you produce.
  • Text : Literacy Narrative. This type of text has different goals and requirements. We’ve examined literacy already, and we’ll review narratives soon. Together, these guidelines will help us construct this specific type of text (rather than a poem about reading or your personal memoir about how you became a writer!).
  • Purpose : To reflect. To introduce yourself. To define your literacy. These are all goals of this assignment. Throughout your assignment, you’ll want to check in with yourself and ensure that you’re accomplishing these goals. If not, you won’t meet the demands of the assignment.
  • Context : This assignment — the assignment sheet above has specific requirements that will influence what you create. Your writing background — no one else has the same life experience with reading and writing as you. The goals of the course — there are specific tasks to accomplish with this project that are specific to CO1 objectives. Each of these aspects will influence how you put the project together. Since you didn’t just wake up and decide to write about literacy, the context of this assignment will determine what you create.
  • Which of the elements of the rhetorical triangle influence your writing decisions most? Why?
  • Are there any elements you don’t consider? Why don’t they seem as important?

Week 2: Defining Narrative and Organization

This week, you’ll review the assignment more fully, begin drafting, and work more closely with feedback from others. A literacy narrative is a specific type of genre, so there are certain requirements for this text. Using examples from other students, we’ll begin to develop your first draft.

Introducing the Literacy Narrative

narrative : a method of story-telling  

A literacy narrative is a common genre for writers who want to explore their own experiences with writing. Just Google “literacy narrative” and find endless examples! While this assignment will respond to specific prompts and follow a more specific structure than some of the examples you’ll find on Google, there is a common theme in each essay that revolves around your relationship with literacy. Week one defined literacy ,  but what about narrative? Narrative can be defined as a method of story-telling. In the simplest terms, your goal in this literacy narrative, in this assignment, is to tell the story of your personal experience with literacy, either from a past event, something you’re working with now, or looking to the future. Let’s review the three sets of prompts from the assignment sheet:

Each of these prompts gives you the chance to tell your story and examine your experience with a specific type of literacy. As you consider the prompts, think about how you could tell a story to answer these questions. With this frame of mind, review the questions and activities below.

  • Which prompt from the assignment sheet will you address? Why does this prompt appeal to you?
  • Consider the brainstorming you did about the ways that you are literate. Which prompt matches those skills best? Are these skills you struggled with at first, skills you currently practice, or a skill that you’re learning and will use in the future? Use these notes to decide which set of questions you’ll focus on in this project.

Organization: PIE Method

Each prompt includes three questions, which we’ll use as the starting point for three paragraphs. In each set of prompts, your first paragraph will describe the text; remember, when thinking about reading a text, we can interpret this broadly, like with music and sports. The second paragraph will explore the challenges or successes you’ve experienced. Then, the third paragraph will focus on strategies and techniques for improvement. This way, you can tell a more complete story of your experience, sharing the details and emotions along the way and making readers feel like they’re right there with you. But how do you capture all this detail in a way that helps you organize your thoughts and keep your reader interested in the story?

We’ll use a formula for the paragraph structure called PIE, which stands for Point, Information, and Explanation. This method will help you plan what you want to say, and then give examples so you can show why each step was so important to you. Let’s review each part of the paragraph, and then we’ll look at how this applies to your literacy narrative with a student sample.

  • In the literacy narrative: Since each paragraph responds to a question from the prompt, the Point of each paragraph should tell readers which question you’re answering. By rephrasing the question in your Point, you can signal to your classmates and instructor so that they know which question you’re answering.
  • In the literacy narrative: Most of your evidence, in a narrative, will be from your experience. Report what happened, what you read, or what you learned. Naming these details can help your readers see through your eyes when you give specific examples.
  • In the literacy narrative: Help your readers get inside your head and feel like they’re with you. Keeping the Point in mind and showing how all these ideas relate will bring the paragraph together by developing each example clearly and offering a thoughtful response to each prompt. How did you feel about the examples from the Information? Why was it was so significant? Why should your readers care about this experience? Answering these questions will help show your readers what you experienced so they can understand the significance and connect with you.

Together, these pieces all come together to create a strong, developed paragraph that responds to the question from the prompt more fully.

  • Below is a sample paragraph that follows the PIE structure. It is coded for the different parts of the paragraph above, with the Point in bold , the  Information in italics , and the  Explanation underlined . The second paragraph has been shortened and has not been coded. First, review the parts of the coded example. Then, review and identify PIE in the paragraph.

Planning a Draft

Now that we’ve reviewed all the components and the foundation for this assignment, you’re ready to begin your draft! We’ll focus just on the first paragraph here, but you can use these steps for each paragraph to construct your draft.

Consider the first question from each prompt, copied below, to decide if you’ll focus on a past experience, the present, or the future:

  • Describe a situation when you were challenged in your reading by describing the source of that challenge (vocabulary, length, organization, something else).  
  • Describe the type of texts you read (watch, listen to, etc.) most often.  
  • Describe what kind of texts you think you will have to read or interpret in the future and where you will encounter these texts (i.e. future classes, your career, etc.).  

Literacy Narrative Rough Draft

Using your brainstorming from previous weeks, and using the student sample as a reference, begin drafting using the PIE structure, following these steps below to build the first paragraph of your draft. This is just a first draft, so let yourself write freely! This doesn’t need to be perfect or even good — instead, the goal is to put ideas on paper.

  • In your Point, rephrase one of the questions above. You can borrow some of this same language to signal to your readers and show which question you’re answering. Remember, this only introduces the main idea — no details yet!
  • Review your brainstorming. Did you name specific examples? Add these to your paragraph to develop the Information. Name at least two examples. Each example you give should connect to the Point, providing evidence from your experience.
  • Review the examples and start to Explain. How did you feel about the examples from the Information? Why was it was so significant? Why should your readers care about this experience? Ask yourself these questions for each example you include.
  • Depending on your drafting process, it might be easy to tackle all three paragraphs at once and get everything down, or you might prefer to write one paragraph at a time.
  • Throughout the course, practice with drafting one paragraph per day, or setting a timer to see what you can write in a specific amount of time.
  • Review what you’ve written, and see if there are more details to add. Remember, the goal is to get as much as you can out of your head. Revisions will take place next.

Week 3: Peer Review and Revision

Peer review.

Peer review is an important part of the drafting process. It helps us learn from our classmates and see our own work in a different way. Writing can be a lonely and isolating experience that makes the process frustrating and unsatisfying. Getting to share your work with others can break that uncomfortable pattern!

That said, you may be new to sharing your work or have different experiences with peer review. Good peer reviews can spark creativity, help build on good ideas, and revise the rougher ideas. But, sometimes peer review can be challenging if your peer is too critical or too complementary, or maybe you can’t read and understand what they wrote! The tips below will help reinforce best practices, as well as avoid some common mistakes with peer review.

When completing peer review, one important rule is to focus on the big picture and NOT to edit. Think about it like this: If you add a comma, then you’ve helped make one sentence of the paper better. In a paper that’s 1,000 words long, that’s not so helpful! Instead, consider the rhetorical triangle. If you can make observations and ask questions to help your classmate understand the audience or the genre better, then the entire paper is going to improve, because you focused on a higher order concept that affects not just one sentence, but the paragraph and the whole paper. Throughout these projects, we’ll practice several strategies for peer review so you can see several example methods and find what works best for you.

Peer workshop

When you sit down with your peer’s paper, we’ll practice a three-step process. This gives you a chance to explain exactly what you mean while offering specific advice for your peer. Review the steps below:

  • Observe : Make a statement or summarize what you see. Identifying a pattern in your peer’s work or repeating what you think your peer is saying can help your peer know if they’re communicating clearly. Using the rhetorical triangle to support these observations could be a helpful strategy!
  • Explain : Critique what you see, explaining if the writer has a strong idea or if it might need work. U sing adjectives to describe what’s going well or what’s not working is important so that you peer can learn more about your observation. Was this “clear” or “confusing”? Is the writer “engaging and interesting” or is the writing “plain and repetitive”?
  • EXAMPLE: 1) You give a few examples for information, then a sentence of explanation. 2) It doesn’t look like this meets the word limits from the assignment sheet, and I’m not sure which part you’ll focus on as the main form of literacy. 3) Could you clarify this? More explanation about why these are important could help you meet the word limit, too!

All together, these comments will need to be a few sentences long. Since we’re NOT focused on grammar or editing, the changes that your peer can make will have a big effect on the final product. With these more developed comments, your goal is to make 1-2 comments per paragraph. Give your classmate something to consider, using our course vocabulary, to really help them improve. As you read and practice this method, it’s likely that you’ll get ideas for your own paper, which makes this process doubly helpful!

Assignment Rubric

  • Will clearly and accurately define a specific type of literacy, explaining the connection and development of literacy. Will clearly establish the identity of the writer and the influence and importance of literacy.
  • Will communicate significant experiences to an academic audience. Will give the reader something new to consider. Will interest the reader through storytelling.
  • Will remain focused on literacy and the individual prompts. Will include specific details from a variety of experiences. Will engage readers with details and examples. Will explain the connections and development of growth through chosen examples.
  • Will follow PIE structure closely.
  • Will be clear and readable without distracting grammar, punctuation or spelling errors.

A “B” (good) summary (80% +):

  • The concept of literacy may not be as clearly connected or central  to the writer’s development.
  • More attention could be paid to engage or interest the readers. May lack context to help the reader understand the writer’s experience.
  • Focus may lack through discussing events outside of the prompts. May include few specific examples. May lack explanation to show connection between examples.
  • PIE may not be followed in one paragraph. Either the point, information, or explanation could be further developed or clarified within a paragraph.
  • The writer may need to work on communicating information more effectively. The narrative will be generally clear and readable but may need further editing for grammatical errors.

A “C” (satisfactory) summary (70% +):

  • Literacy is not defined or explained clearly in connection to skill.
  • Awareness of audience is lacking, making sections confusing for an unfamiliar reader.
  • Prompts may not be clearly connected to the paragraphs. Examples are not included or are not clearly explained.
  • PIE may be missing or underdeveloped in multiple paragraphs.
  • “C” narratives may also need more editing for readability.

A “D” (poor) summary (60% +):

  • Will show an attempt toward the assignment goals that has fallen short. May have several of the above problems.

An “F” (failing) summary:

  • ignores the assignment.
  • has been plagiarized.
  • Review the same sample paragraph below from a previous student. Identify one strength and one area for improvement in the draft, following the 3-step method above. As you review, consider how to balance praise and criticism. Something is going well in your peer’s draft, and something can be improved!

Most of this week revolves around drafting activities. This week brings our first revisions and peer reviews, an important part of the writing process. With your peers, you’ll get to review what they’ve been working on while receiving feedback on your own work. Similar to the sample, it will be your responsibility to identify strengths and praise your peers’ writing, as well as identify areas for improvement and explain why this is an important revision they must make.

Applying Peer Review: Taking Suggestions and Revising

Once you’ve completed peer review, you’ll likely have lots of ideas — reviewing others’ work often ignites a creative spark for your own work! You should feel free to apply strategies from your peers and reexamine your work, but you want to focus on your peers’ suggestions for you. This way, you can see how your ideas and their commentary lines up. In our 3-step feedback process, the last step is to make a suggestion. While the notes from your peers should be valuable, it’s ultimately your draft and your decision about what feedback to include. As you read through the commentary, review the assignment sheet, and begin making changes to the draft. This is one of the most important steps in the writing process and what makes the difference between a rough first draft and a polished, complete draft.

Suggested schedule and pacing

This module is intended to take 3 weeks and would work well as a first, introductory assignment or as a final, reflective assignment. Each unit is designed to help instructors offer feedback at critical stages of the drafting process, assisting writers strategically before they offer their drafts for peer review. This does require a quick turnaround from instructors; for planning this three-week unit, drafts would be due to you after the two-week mark, and peer review is recommended to take place a few days after, once your feedback can be reviewed and used for revisions. This necessarily leads to less intensive feedback on the final drafts, helping to disperse workload and making for faster turnaround of final submissions.

Writers may experience typical growing pains throughout these assignments, especially when used as a first assessment and adjust to your style and teaching practice. Overall, writers seem motivated and engaged in the narrative aspect and less intimidated when starting the course with a less formal, less academic assignment. This is intentional so that everyone begins from a familiar place. As a last, reflective project, this can be used to help writers process and digest rhetorical concepts and their growth throughout the semester.

This unit focuses on close reading skills and introspection to allow students to orient themselves to writing in a constructive and open-minded way. By focusing on literacy and setting the tone for the semester, students tend to be more receptive to rhetorical concepts and understand the time investment required for this course.

Assessment notes

Through this three-week unit, students will explore their past  literacies and expand the definition of literacy  beyond  the traditional sense  to grow comfortable and familiar with the idea of reading and writing in academic English.   

the ability to read and write; more broadly, a specific ability to navigate a specialized discipline

Close reading is a process to understand what is being said.

the ways language and other communication strategies are used to achieve a purpose with an audience

a method of story-telling

First-Year Composition Copyright © by Leslie Davis and Kiley Miller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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ENG 120 College Writing

Literacy narrative resources, example literacy narratives.

  • Rhetorical Analysis
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  • Literacy Narrative Explained From CUNY Academic Commons, learn more about literacy narratives with examples.
  • Literacy Narratives From the UNC Charlotte The Writing Resources Corner, this resource provides information on what literacy narratives are and how to write one.
  • Purdue OWL: Narrative Essays When writing a narrative essay, one might think of it as telling a story. These essays are often anecdotal, experiential, and personal—allowing students to express themselves in a creative and, quite often, moving ways.
  • Narrative Essay Narration is a rhetorical style that basically just tells a story. Being able to convey events in a clear, descriptive, chronological order is important in many fields. Many times, in college, your professors will ask you to write paragraphs or entire essays using a narrative style.
  • Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives An open public resource made up of stories from people just like you about their experiences learning to read, write, and generally communicate with the world around them.
  • HERS by Perri Klass
  • "Literacy Narrative" by Kiki Petrosino
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
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3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)

Learning outcomes.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Use a variety of technologies to address a range of audiences.
  • Match the capacities of different environments to varying rhetorical situations.

An archive is a collection of artifacts, often historical, that serve to document a time period, location, or group of people. Archives may be located far from cities, accessible only in person, and they typically house rare documents that visitors view or handle with particular care. When an archive is digitized, however, visitors are allowed to view the document in virtual spaces, thus creating an open and accessible environment. The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN) “is an open public resource made up of stories from people just like you about their experiences learning to read, write, and generally communicate with the world around them.” People who have diverse identities, lived experiences, and engagement with literacies have uploaded their literacy narratives and given permission for their stories to be read and shared with public audiences.

Using the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)

The DALN is completely keyword searchable, so if you are looking to read literacy narratives on particular subjects—such as music or dance as literacy, or any other concentrated subject about which one can demonstrate knowledge—you can search for shared narratives with these literacies. As the website states, “The DALN invites people of all ages, races, communities, backgrounds, and interests to contribute stories about how—and in what circumstances—they read, write, and compose meaning, and how they learned to do so (or helped others learn).” Sharing your literacy narrative in the DALN can be a rewarding way to celebrate the completion of this writing milestone. The DALN welcomes literacy narratives of all kinds and in all formats, including diaries, blogs, poetry, music, videos, letters, stories, chat rooms, and so on.

Publish Your Literacy Narrative

After you have completed and revised your literacy narrative, consider sharing it with the DALN You may also want to consider reimagining your literacy narrative in the form of a podcast or a TED Talk–type video. The TED Talks in TED Talk is an acronym that stands for the phrase “Technology, Entertainment, and Design.” TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to the distribution of ideas; the website is keyword searchable and provides an archive where you can find short talks about just about any topic. The criteria for a TED Talk can be found on the organization’s website. To prepare for this publication alternative, take an opportunity to watch the following sample TED Talks that fit the genre of literacy narrative:

  • Luvvie Ajayi discusses how blogging and creating a post that went viral led to her identifying as a writer.
  • John Trischitti talks about how reading literally saves lives and advocates for providing young people with books to secure their futures.

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Home — Essay Samples — Education — Literacy — Literacy Narrative: My Development In Reading And Writing


Literacy Narrative: My Development in Reading and Writing

  • Categories: Literacy Personal Beliefs Personal Experience

About this sample


Words: 1015 |

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Words: 1015 | Pages: 2 | 6 min read

Works Cited

  • Frey, N., & Fisher, D. (2007). Reading for information in elementary school: Content literacy strategies to build comprehension. Prentice Hall.
  • Graham, S., & Hebert, M. (2011). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. Carnegie Corporation of New York.
  • Nagy, W., & Anderson, R. C. (1984). The number of words in printed school English. Reading Research Quarterly, 19(3), 304-330.
  • National Council of Teachers of English. (2018). Writing as a tool for learning. Retrieved from https://www2.ncte.org/resources/positions/writing-as-a-tool-for-learning/
  • Pappas, C. C. (2014). Literacy narratives and the teacher education classroom: Exploring the potential for transformative learning. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 10(1), 44-61.
  • Powell, J. (2018). An Introduction to Education Studies. Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Rappleye, J. (2017). Essential study skills. Cengage Learning.
  • The International Literacy Association. (2019). The power of literacy. Retrieved from https://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/resource-documents/2019-ila-power-of-literacy.pdf?sfvrsn=9da89fc2_2
  • The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • Wilkinson, L. (2018). The essentials of academic writing. Sage Publications Ltd.

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narrative essay on literacy

Literacy Ideas

Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students

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Narratives build on and encourage the development of the fundamentals of writing. They also require developing an additional skill set: the ability to tell a good yarn, and storytelling is as old as humanity.

We see and hear stories everywhere and daily, from having good gossip on the doorstep with a neighbor in the morning to the dramas that fill our screens in the evening.

Good narrative writing skills are hard-won by students even though it is an area of writing that most enjoy due to the creativity and freedom it offers.

Here we will explore some of the main elements of a good story: plot, setting, characters, conflict, climax, and resolution . And we will look too at how best we can help our students understand these elements, both in isolation and how they mesh together as a whole.

Visual Writing


What is a narrative?

A narrative is a story that shares a sequence of events , characters, and themes. It expresses experiences, ideas, and perspectives that should aspire to engage and inspire an audience.

A narrative can spark emotion, encourage reflection, and convey meaning when done well.

Narratives are a popular genre for students and teachers as they allow the writer to share their imagination, creativity, skill, and understanding of nearly all elements of writing.  We occasionally refer to a narrative as ‘creative writing’ or story writing.

The purpose of a narrative is simple, to tell the audience a story.  It can be written to motivate, educate, or entertain and can be fact or fiction.


narrative writing | narrative writing unit 1 2 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

Teach your students to become skilled story writers with this HUGE   NARRATIVE & CREATIVE STORY WRITING UNIT . Offering a  COMPLETE SOLUTION  to teaching students how to craft  CREATIVE CHARACTERS, SUPERB SETTINGS, and PERFECT PLOTS .

Over 192 PAGES of materials, including:


There are many narrative writing genres and sub-genres such as these.

We have a complete guide to writing a personal narrative that differs from the traditional story-based narrative covered in this guide. It includes personal narrative writing prompts, resources, and examples and can be found here.

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As we can see, narratives are an open-ended form of writing that allows you to showcase creativity in many directions. However, all narratives share a common set of features and structure known as “Story Elements”, which are briefly covered in this guide.

Don’t overlook the importance of understanding story elements and the value this adds to you as a writer who can dissect and create grand narratives. We also have an in-depth guide to understanding story elements here .


Narrative structure.

ORIENTATION (BEGINNING) Set the scene by introducing your characters, setting and time of the story. Establish your who, when and where in this part of your narrative

COMPLICATION AND EVENTS (MIDDLE) In this section activities and events involving your main characters are expanded upon. These events are written in a cohesive and fluent sequence.

RESOLUTION (ENDING) Your complication is resolved in this section. It does not have to be a happy outcome, however.

EXTRAS: Whilst orientation, complication and resolution are the agreed norms for a narrative, there are numerous examples of popular texts that did not explicitly follow this path exactly.


LANGUAGE: Use descriptive and figurative language to paint images inside your audience’s minds as they read.

PERSPECTIVE Narratives can be written from any perspective but are most commonly written in first or third person.

DIALOGUE Narratives frequently switch from narrator to first-person dialogue. Always use speech marks when writing dialogue.

TENSE If you change tense, make it perfectly clear to your audience what is happening. Flashbacks might work well in your mind but make sure they translate to your audience.


narrative writing | structuring a narrative | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

This graphic is known as a plot map, and nearly all narratives fit this structure in one way or another, whether romance novels, science fiction or otherwise.

It is a simple tool that helps you understand and organise a story’s events. Think of it as a roadmap that outlines the journey of your characters and the events that unfold. It outlines the different stops along the way, such as the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, that help you to see how the story builds and develops.

Using a plot map, you can see how each event fits into the larger picture and how the different parts of the story work together to create meaning. It’s a great way to visualize and analyze a story.

Be sure to refer to a plot map when planning a story, as it has all the essential elements of a great story.


This video we created provides an excellent overview of these elements and demonstrates them in action in stories we all know and love.

Story Elements for kids


How to write a Narrative

Now that we understand the story elements and how they come together to form stories, it’s time to start planning and writing your narrative.

In many cases, the template and guide below will provide enough details on how to craft a great story. However, if you still need assistance with the fundamentals of writing, such as sentence structure, paragraphs and using correct grammar, we have some excellent guides on those here.

USE YOUR WRITING TIME EFFECTIVELY: Maximize your narrative writing sessions by spending approximately 20 per cent of your time planning and preparing.  This ensures greater productivity during your writing time and keeps you focused and on task.

Use tools such as graphic organizers to logically sequence your narrative if you are not a confident story writer.  If you are working with reluctant writers, try using narrative writing prompts to get their creative juices flowing.

Spend most of your writing hour on the task at hand, don’t get too side-tracked editing during this time and leave some time for editing. When editing a  narrative, examine it for these three elements.

  • Spelling and grammar ( Is it readable?)
  • Story structure and continuity ( Does it make sense, and does it flow? )
  • Character and plot analysis. (Are your characters engaging? Does your problem/resolution work? )


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The story’s setting often answers two of the central questions in the story, namely, the where and the when. The answers to these two crucial questions will often be informed by the type of story the student is writing.

The story’s setting can be chosen to quickly orient the reader to the type of story they are reading. For example, a fictional narrative writing piece such as a horror story will often begin with a description of a haunted house on a hill or an abandoned asylum in the middle of the woods. If we start our story on a rocket ship hurtling through the cosmos on its space voyage to the Alpha Centauri star system, we can be reasonably sure that the story we are embarking on is a work of science fiction.

Such conventions are well-worn clichés true, but they can be helpful starting points for our novice novelists to make a start.

Having students choose an appropriate setting for the type of story they wish to write is an excellent exercise for our younger students. It leads naturally onto the next stage of story writing, which is creating suitable characters to populate this fictional world they have created. However, older or more advanced students may wish to play with the expectations of appropriate settings for their story. They may wish to do this for comic effect or in the interest of creating a more original story. For example, opening a story with a children’s birthday party does not usually set up the expectation of a horror story. Indeed, it may even lure the reader into a happy reverie as they remember their own happy birthday parties. This leaves them more vulnerable to the surprise element of the shocking action that lies ahead.

Once the students have chosen a setting for their story, they need to start writing. Little can be more terrifying to English students than the blank page and its bare whiteness stretching before them on the table like a merciless desert they must cross. Give them the kick-start they need by offering support through word banks or writing prompts. If the class is all writing a story based on the same theme, you may wish to compile a common word bank on the whiteboard as a prewriting activity. Write the central theme or genre in the middle of the board. Have students suggest words or phrases related to the theme and list them on the board.

You may wish to provide students with a copy of various writing prompts to get them started. While this may mean that many students’ stories will have the same beginning, they will most likely arrive at dramatically different endings via dramatically different routes.

narrative writing | story elements | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

A bargain is at the centre of the relationship between the writer and the reader. That bargain is that the reader promises to suspend their disbelief as long as the writer creates a consistent and convincing fictional reality. Creating a believable world for the fictional characters to inhabit requires the student to draw on convincing details. The best way of doing this is through writing that appeals to the senses. Have your student reflect deeply on the world that they are creating. What does it look like? Sound like? What does the food taste like there? How does it feel like to walk those imaginary streets, and what aromas beguile the nose as the main character winds their way through that conjured market?

Also, Consider the when; or the time period. Is it a future world where things are cleaner and more antiseptic? Or is it an overcrowded 16th-century London with human waste stinking up the streets? If students can create a multi-sensory installation in the reader’s mind, then they have done this part of their job well.

Popular Settings from Children’s Literature and Storytelling

  • Fairytale Kingdom
  • Magical Forest
  • Village/town
  • Underwater world
  • Space/Alien planet


Now that your student has created a believable world, it is time to populate it with believable characters.

In short stories, these worlds mustn’t be overpopulated beyond what the student’s skill level can manage. Short stories usually only require one main character and a few secondary ones. Think of the short story more as a small-scale dramatic production in an intimate local theater than a Hollywood blockbuster on a grand scale. Too many characters will only confuse and become unwieldy with a canvas this size. Keep it simple!

Creating believable characters is often one of the most challenging aspects of narrative writing for students. Fortunately, we can do a few things to help students here. Sometimes it is helpful for students to model their characters on actual people they know. This can make things a little less daunting and taxing on the imagination. However, whether or not this is the case, writing brief background bios or descriptions of characters’ physical personality characteristics can be a beneficial prewriting activity. Students should give some in-depth consideration to the details of who their character is: How do they walk? What do they look like? Do they have any distinguishing features? A crooked nose? A limp? Bad breath? Small details such as these bring life and, therefore, believability to characters. Students can even cut pictures from magazines to put a face to their character and allow their imaginations to fill in the rest of the details.

Younger students will often dictate to the reader the nature of their characters. To improve their writing craft, students must know when to switch from story-telling mode to story-showing mode. This is particularly true when it comes to character. Encourage students to reveal their character’s personality through what they do rather than merely by lecturing the reader on the faults and virtues of the character’s personality. It might be a small relayed detail in the way they walk that reveals a core characteristic. For example, a character who walks with their head hanging low and shoulders hunched while avoiding eye contact has been revealed to be timid without the word once being mentioned. This is a much more artistic and well-crafted way of doing things and is less irritating for the reader. A character who sits down at the family dinner table immediately snatches up his fork and starts stuffing roast potatoes into his mouth before anyone else has even managed to sit down has revealed a tendency towards greed or gluttony.

Understanding Character Traits

Again, there is room here for some fun and profitable prewriting activities. Give students a list of character traits and have them describe a character doing something that reveals that trait without ever employing the word itself.

It is also essential to avoid adjective stuffing here. When looking at students’ early drafts, adjective stuffing is often apparent. To train the student out of this habit, choose an adjective and have the student rewrite the sentence to express this adjective through action rather than telling.

When writing a story, it is vital to consider the character’s traits and how they will impact the story’s events. For example, a character with a strong trait of determination may be more likely to overcome obstacles and persevere. In contrast, a character with a tendency towards laziness may struggle to achieve their goals. In short, character traits add realism, depth, and meaning to a story, making it more engaging and memorable for the reader.

Popular Character Traits in Children’s Stories

  • Determination
  • Imagination
  • Perseverance
  • Responsibility

We have an in-depth guide to creating great characters here , but most students should be fine to move on to planning their conflict and resolution.


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This is often the area apprentice writers have the most difficulty with. Students must understand that without a problem or conflict, there is no story. The problem is the driving force of the action. Usually, in a short story, the problem will center around what the primary character wants to happen or, indeed, wants not to happen. It is the hurdle that must be overcome. It is in the struggle to overcome this hurdle that events happen.

Often when a student understands the need for a problem in a story, their completed work will still not be successful. This is because, often in life, problems remain unsolved. Hurdles are not always successfully overcome. Students pick up on this.

We often discuss problems with friends that will never be satisfactorily resolved one way or the other, and we accept this as a part of life. This is not usually the case with writing a story. Whether a character successfully overcomes his or her problem or is decidedly crushed in the process of trying is not as important as the fact that it will finally be resolved one way or the other.

A good practical exercise for students to get to grips with this is to provide copies of stories and have them identify the central problem or conflict in each through discussion. Familiar fables or fairy tales such as Three Little Pigs, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Cinderella, etc., are great for this.

While it is true that stories often have more than one problem or that the hero or heroine is unsuccessful in their first attempt to solve a central problem, for beginning students and intermediate students, it is best to focus on a single problem, especially given the scope of story writing at this level. Over time students will develop their abilities to handle more complex plots and write accordingly.

Popular Conflicts found in Children’s Storytelling.

  • Good vs evil
  • Individual vs society
  • Nature vs nurture
  • Self vs others
  • Man vs self
  • Man vs nature
  • Man vs technology
  • Individual vs fate
  • Self vs destiny

Conflict is the heart and soul of any good story. It’s what makes a story compelling and drives the plot forward. Without conflict, there is no story. Every great story has a struggle or a problem that needs to be solved, and that’s where conflict comes in. Conflict is what makes a story exciting and keeps the reader engaged. It creates tension and suspense and makes the reader care about the outcome.

Like in real life, conflict in a story is an opportunity for a character’s growth and transformation. It’s a chance for them to learn and evolve, making a story great. So next time stories are written in the classroom, remember that conflict is an essential ingredient, and without it, your story will lack the energy, excitement, and meaning that makes it truly memorable.


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The climax of the story is the dramatic high point of the action. It is also when the struggles kicked off by the problem come to a head. The climax will ultimately decide whether the story will have a happy or tragic ending. In the climax, two opposing forces duke things out until the bitter (or sweet!) end. One force ultimately emerges triumphant. As the action builds throughout the story, suspense increases as the reader wonders which of these forces will win out. The climax is the release of this suspense.

Much of the success of the climax depends on how well the other elements of the story have been achieved. If the student has created a well-drawn and believable character that the reader can identify with and feel for, then the climax will be more powerful.

The nature of the problem is also essential as it determines what’s at stake in the climax. The problem must matter dearly to the main character if it matters at all to the reader.

Have students engage in discussions about their favorite movies and books. Have them think about the storyline and decide the most exciting parts. What was at stake at these moments? What happened in your body as you read or watched? Did you breathe faster? Or grip the cushion hard? Did your heart rate increase, or did you start to sweat? This is what a good climax does and what our students should strive to do in their stories.

The climax puts it all on the line and rolls the dice. Let the chips fall where the writer may…

Popular Climax themes in Children’s Stories

  • A battle between good and evil
  • The character’s bravery saves the day
  • Character faces their fears and overcomes them
  • The character solves a mystery or puzzle.
  • The character stands up for what is right.
  • Character reaches their goal or dream.
  • The character learns a valuable lesson.
  • The character makes a selfless sacrifice.
  • The character makes a difficult decision.
  • The character reunites with loved ones or finds true friendship.


After the climactic action, a few questions will often remain unresolved for the reader, even if all the conflict has been resolved. The resolution is where those lingering questions will be answered. The resolution in a short story may only be a brief paragraph or two. But, in most cases, it will still be necessary to include an ending immediately after the climax can feel too abrupt and leave the reader feeling unfulfilled.

An easy way to explain resolution to students struggling to grasp the concept is to point to the traditional resolution of fairy tales, the “And they all lived happily ever after” ending. This weather forecast for the future allows the reader to take their leave. Have the student consider the emotions they want to leave the reader with when crafting their resolution.

While the action is usually complete by the end of the climax, it is in the resolution that if there is a twist to be found, it will appear – think of movies such as The Usual Suspects. Pulling this off convincingly usually requires considerable skill from a student writer. Still, it may well form a challenging extension exercise for those more gifted storytellers among your students.

Popular Resolutions in Children’s Stories

  • Our hero achieves their goal
  • The character learns a valuable lesson
  • A character finds happiness or inner peace.
  • The character reunites with loved ones.
  • Character restores balance to the world.
  • The character discovers their true identity.
  • Character changes for the better.
  • The character gains wisdom or understanding.
  • Character makes amends with others.
  • The character learns to appreciate what they have.

Once students have completed their story, they can edit for grammar, vocabulary choice, spelling, etc., but not before!

As mentioned, there is a craft to storytelling, as well as an art. When accurate grammar, perfect spelling, and immaculate sentence structures are pushed at the outset, they can cause storytelling paralysis. For this reason, it is essential that when we encourage the students to write a story, we give them license to make mechanical mistakes in their use of language that they can work on and fix later.

Good narrative writing is a very complex skill to develop and will take the student years to become competent. It challenges not only the student’s technical abilities with language but also her creative faculties. Writing frames, word banks, mind maps, and visual prompts can all give valuable support as students develop the wide-ranging and challenging skills required to produce a successful narrative writing piece. But, at the end of it all, as with any craft, practice and more practice is at the heart of the matter.


  • Start your story with a clear purpose: If you can determine the theme or message you want to convey in your narrative before starting it will make the writing process so much simpler.
  • Choose a compelling storyline and sell it through great characters, setting and plot: Consider a unique or interesting story that captures the reader’s attention, then build the world and characters around it.
  • Develop vivid characters that are not all the same: Make your characters relatable and memorable by giving them distinct personalities and traits you can draw upon in the plot.
  • Use descriptive language to hook your audience into your story: Use sensory language to paint vivid images and sequences in the reader’s mind.
  • Show, don’t tell your audience: Use actions, thoughts, and dialogue to reveal character motivations and emotions through storytelling.
  • Create a vivid setting that is clear to your audience before getting too far into the plot: Describe the time and place of your story to immerse the reader fully.
  • Build tension: Refer to the story map earlier in this article and use conflict, obstacles, and suspense to keep the audience engaged and invested in your narrative.
  • Use figurative language such as metaphors, similes, and other literary devices to add depth and meaning to your narrative.
  • Edit, revise, and refine: Take the time to refine and polish your writing for clarity and impact.
  • Stay true to your voice: Maintain your unique perspective and style in your writing to make it your own.


Below are a collection of student writing samples of narratives.  Click on the image to enlarge and explore them in greater detail.  Please take a moment to read these creative stories in detail and the teacher and student guides which highlight some of the critical elements of narratives to consider before writing.

Please understand these student writing samples are not intended to be perfect examples for each age or grade level but a piece of writing for students and teachers to explore together to critically analyze to improve student writing skills and deepen their understanding of story writing.

We recommend reading the example either a year above or below, as well as the grade you are currently working with, to gain a broader appreciation of this text type.

narrative writing | Narrative writing example year 3 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com


When students have a great journal prompt, it can help them focus on the task at hand, so be sure to view our vast collection of visual writing prompts for various text types here or use some of these.

  • On a recent European trip, you find your travel group booked into the stunning and mysterious Castle Frankenfurter for a single night…  As night falls, the massive castle of over one hundred rooms seems to creak and groan as a series of unexplained events begin to make you wonder who or what else is spending the evening with you. Write a narrative that tells the story of your evening.
  • You are a famous adventurer who has discovered new lands; keep a travel log over a period of time in which you encounter new and exciting adventures and challenges to overcome.  Ensure your travel journal tells a story and has a definite introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • You create an incredible piece of technology that has the capacity to change the world.  As you sit back and marvel at your innovation and the endless possibilities ahead of you, it becomes apparent there are a few problems you didn’t really consider. You might not even be able to control them.  Write a narrative in which you ride the highs and lows of your world-changing creation with a clear introduction, conflict and resolution.
  • As the final door shuts on the Megamall, you realise you have done it…  You and your best friend have managed to sneak into the largest shopping centre in town and have the entire place to yourselves until 7 am tomorrow.  There is literally everything and anything a child would dream of entertaining themselves for the next 12 hours.  What amazing adventures await you?  What might go wrong?  And how will you get out of there scot-free?
  • A stranger walks into town…  Whilst appearing similar to almost all those around you, you get a sense that this person is from another time, space or dimension… Are they friends or foes?  What makes you sense something very strange is going on?   Suddenly they stand up and walk toward you with purpose extending their hand… It’s almost as if they were reading your mind.


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Teaching Resources

Use our resources and tools to improve your student’s writing skills through proven teaching strategies.

When teaching narrative writing, it is essential that you have a range of tools, strategies and resources at your disposal to ensure you get the most out of your writing time.  You can find some examples below, which are free and paid premium resources you can use instantly without any preparation.

FREE Narrative Graphic Organizer

narrative writing | NarrativeGraphicOrganizer | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com


narrative writing | story tellers bundle 1 | Narrative Writing: A Complete Guide for Teachers and Students | literacyideas.com

A MASSIVE COLLECTION of resources for narratives and story writing in the classroom covering all elements of crafting amazing stories. MONTHS WORTH OF WRITING LESSONS AND RESOURCES, including:


writing checklists

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Narrative Writing for Kids: Essential Skills and Strategies

narrative writing | narrative writing lessons | 7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love | literacyideas.com

7 Great Narrative Lesson Plans Students and Teachers Love

narrative writing | Top narrative writing skills for students | Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students | literacyideas.com

Top 7 Narrative Writing Exercises for Students

narrative writing | how to write a scary horror story | How to Write a Scary Story | literacyideas.com

How to Write a Scary Story

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