The Desire for Literacy 8: Dear Chief - National Council of Teachers of English
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The Desire for Literacy 8: Dear Chief

This is the last of our eight excerpts from Lauren Rosenberg’s The Desire for Literacy: Writing in the Lives of Adult Learners, a volume in the CCCC Studies in Writing and Rhetoric Series. In this book, Dr. Rosenberg shares the literacy experiences of four learners who attended the Read/Write/Now Adult Learning Center, a library-based informal education site in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Lauren Rosenberg’s The Desire for LiteracyChief writes himself inspirational notes. They are tucked into his portfolio between the goal statements and the editor’s letters he used to publish in the Read/Write/Now Daily News. This one is from his early years in the program:

Dear Chief

I am writing to tell you how proud I am of the work you have done this year at R-W-N. Some of the thing you should be most proud about are that you have learn to read and understand what you are reading. I am glad you are enjoying it. I’m proud that you have read eleven books. A couple of your most important stories are on Black History Month about Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

I understand you like your teachers here at R-W-N. You like working with the Monthly News. And you like working with your good friends. I hope in the next year you continue to read and write more. I am proud to see you have done well. I like the two stories you wrote about Dr. M.L.K. Jr. and Malcolm X.

Keep up the good work


Now Chief can be his own good father, giving himself the nurturance he suggests he wishes he had had as a boy. Chief can also be his own good teacher, assessing himself at the end of the school year: I am proud of you, Chief. Encouraging himself, celebrating his reading, his writing, especially when it’s on history and race, and his leadership as editor. “I am glad you are enjoying it,” Chief tells himself, because now he finally gets to have what he has always wanted. He savors it; he acknowledges the joy he gains and not just that reading and writing will qualify him for a better job someday. Literacy is not just fodder for employment. Although he is the first to admit—often with sadness—that he could have gone much further than he did in the workforce if he had been more literate, he also is aware that literacy carries much more value than credentials for work. Chief is very clear about the multiple purposes of literacy in his life. When we talk together, Chief ’s remarks make me realize that he has contemplated his desire for literacy throughout his life and that he sees the processes of reading and writing as multifaceted.



All eight of our excerpts from this book can now be found here.