Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why Literacy is Like Cacti

Image by Ian Lucero, used with permission from Flickr.
Literacy is like a cactus. This is a sentence I never thought I would write, but literacy and cacti have more in common than one might presume. A student’s exposure to reading and writing affects their literacy development, just as a cactus’ exposure to sunlight affects its growth. A cactus cannot grow without sufficient sunlight; a student cannot become literate without sufficient outlets to practice creative thought. As a cactus retains the water it is given, a student who embraces the reading and writing opportunities they are given will further develop their literacy skills and (hopefully) retain them.
            The idea of what it means to be literate is constantly changing. For example, consider reading and writing texts, emails, blog posts, Tweets, and captions for photos on Instagram. All of these demand a different kind of literacy than what people have needed to be considered literate in the past. This example also shows how literacy appears in our culture in a variety of forms. In comparison, cacti change in their physical appearance throughout their lives depending on their surroundings. Some have flowers, some are tall, and some are fat. Just as one cactus is not inherently better than another, one form of literacy is not inherently better than another.

            Although literacy is a noun, it is intangible, and it is difficult to define without offending someone. Similarly, it is nearly impossible to touch the surface of a cactus without getting poked. Perhaps it is these obstacles that both literacy and cacti present which contribute to their persistence and adaptability through time.
Does this metaphor seem to hold true to you? What is something you might compare literacy to?