Literature Review On Critical Self Reflection: Literacy

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Reading, Family, Literature, Life, Writing, Books, Children, Experience

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/18

First day

The first few pages of the book presented the author’s impoverished childhood. It reminded me of the war-ravaged Europe when WWI came to an end. It was saddening that the author had to live during that difficult time in history, and have a father like his who did nothing to alleviate their family’s suffering. I was hooked and continued with enthusiasm as I was eager to learn how the story will unfold and lead to the death of Angela, who turned out to be the author’s mother.

Second day

I’m on Chapter VIII after reading for four hours yesterday. By now I am feeling restless and impatient because I have yet to reach the part which talks about the death of Angela. I am also saddened by the sufferings that the boy and his innocent siblings had to experience at such very young age because of poverty. More so when his father continued to drink their meager money away without any thought for his children. Their life was already difficult as it was, but they kept having babies when all he ever did was bemoan their fate instead of working hard in order to feed all their children. Frank is a good son and student, brimming with so many potential of succeeding in life, but his father made wrong decisions in life which furthered the hardships his family was going through. Their poverty was limiting Frank’s chances of getting himself educated properly so that he would have a better chance of improving his life and his family’s. It was all unfair but familiar, the reflection of a society that puts too much value on wealth instead of a person’s skills. I decided to continue reading but my initial enthusiasm is already waning.

Third day

I have decided to finish reading the book today. I have come to realize that the ashes in the title does not pertain to Angela dying. It was more interesting for me to finally understand that the ashes refer to the ashes from Angela’s cigarette every time she smokes, a habit she has acquired in order to find comfort from the difficult life that her family has to live. The sad part about it was that she couldn’t even get a stick of cigarette whenever she needed to, thus losing the comfort that she badly needed to get her through. I commend her for being a strong woman who never turned her back on her children, like her coward husband did. This story has brought me to a roller coaster of emotions that at times left me stalling as I pondered on new interesting points. I have again found an enthusiasm to continue reading until the story’s end, more so when the main protagonist showed maturity by thinking about his future at such an early age. It is a relief that despite being destitute, Frank was smart. Hope is written all over the pages and somehow, the depression I felt upon reading about desolation and deaths faded.

Fourth day

I am now going to start writing my Critical Self Reflection. I am surprised to find myself eager to write about what I have read and describe my reading experience. It was a book that I enjoyed so much as there are so many life lessons that I was able to learn from it. Although I already know about some of those lessons, it felt good to be reminded about the importance of having a dream and summoning courage in order to reach it. There is also the practice of patience, in knowing that one would eventually find him/herself where s/he wanted to be as long as faith is intact and resolve is 100%. Fear only breeds fear, and when an opportunity is presented, it should be grabbed right away without any traces of hesitation or fear. I feel exhilirated after learning these ideas, and in all the excitement, I feel that it’s better if I start writing tomorrow after I made sure that I feel better enough to write.

Fourth day, after writing

I am done writing, and minding the details that had to be included in the paper made me aware of the various learnings I got from reading. I was in the best mood when I started, and this brought me more ideas to discuss. I had breakfast and the lighting in my room was perfect for writing so I was able to pour my thoughts well without any distraction. Finally, after witnessing all the hardships that Frank had to go through in his life, he was able to escape and found something that would help him improve his life. The last chapter had the strongest impact, an important declaration of Frank’s new-found hope. It was just a line, a response to the other person who said that America was a great country. Frank’s reply was just a short and simple “’Tis,” and that was enough affirmation.
The book I chose for this assignment was Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Based on the title, I was expecting to learn about Angela’s death as implied by the word ‘ashes’ in the title. Although ashes may also mean something else, prior knowledge indicates that the way it was used in the title talks about the ashes of a dead person who is cremated. Because of this assumption, I was eager to start reading. This eagerness brought me enthusiasm while reading the book and writing the journal. My journal entries were a bit short as I found myself constantly thinking back and analyzing what I have read. It was a crucial factor that I was reading and writing in the confines of my room, where there was ample light and it was relatively quiet so I was able to maximize my reading and writing time. The atmosphere was highly conducive for both activities as there was nothing that would distract my focus.
Despite the initial zest I had when I started reading the book, I found my interest dwindling when I realized that I am still far from discovering the truth about Angela’s death. I was also deeply saddened by the series of death that occured in the story and how it seemed to become the norm in Limerick. This idea of constant death as a result of lack of food, medicine, and other basic necessities is similar to the idea in the novel Night wherein the deaths of the victims of Holocaust was also considered insignificant and common. However, the main protagonists’ display of intelligence gave me an inspiration to continue reading. The story was wrapped in the color of ashes, all gloomy and discouraged, but Frank’s display of deeper understanding of the things that he was experiencing and all the things that he was seeing around him presents a bright hope. The family’s ability to find humor in their difficult situation was also and inspiration. This reminds me of my family when we were going through a rough patch that involved money. My parents were extremely stressed, thinking about how they would be able to get the money they needed in order to pay our home mortgage and all the other payables. However, we did not forget to laugh at our own follies, like when my mother came back home from grocery shopping and realized that the reason why some shoppers were staring at her, to which she responded by raising her brows, was that she was wearing her shirt inside out. I became more focus after establishing these connections, and I started focsuing more on finding other commonalities in the author’s life and mine.
As I continued reading, the image of poverty-stricken Limerick became clear in my head. Houses were in run-down condition, women with children were flocking outside offices of Christian organizations to get dockets for food and other basic needs, and children were wearing old clothes that they looked more like rags. It was a depressed and crowded area, significant of the economic decline that defined the period between the first and second World War. Like a war-torn region, Limerick and the people’s lives were in a state of collapse. This was also the same sorry state that Frank’s father had sank himself into despite the numerous opportunities he had to improve his family lives. As a father who claims to have strong male pride, I found my self asking if he even realized that the quality of his family’s life spoke of the kind of man he was. Malachy appeared to be a smart man, but it would seem that his intelligence failed to translate into action, and that was the real tragedy of the story. He had strong Christian belief, but he relied heavily on his religion that he lost sight of the importance of being practical even with the threat of his own son’s death. He was described by the author the way he was seen, without any filter or buffer. The love, gratefulness, and respect that Frank had for him was evident, but so was the disappointment, and later on apathy. This straightforward method of writing and presenting everything as it is made it easier to identify with the characters and see things in their perspectives. There was no room for any doubts as to what the author was trying to convey so understanding the story came easy.
After reading and analyzing the book, I came to realize that I have come a long way in terms of my reading skills. I now have so much experience in life that I obviously lacked as a child, and these helped me establish connections, draw inferences, and pick what’s important in the text. I am now more critical of the information I am getting from what I’m reading and these translate to my writing. After getting the important ideas, I am able to establish connections between the ideas I’ve read and the experiences I had in life. This was also the same with finding background knowledge that would help me relate what I’ve read. I had limited experience when I was young, perhaps because I was mostly focused on playing and I did not pay too much attention on what was happening around me. This lack of experience made it difficult for me to connect the ideas from what I was reading to anything that has happened in my life, or anything that I already knew before I started reading. As a result, it prevented me from fully understanding and appreciating what I was reading. Reading simply became an activity that I had to do because it was a subject I had to attend everyday.
Reading strategies are employed in order to understand words and meaning from the material being read. Two of these strategies are using prior schemas and making connections based on prior schemas (Weaver, 20202, p. 329). This explains why it was hard for me to understand what I was reading. However, Weaver emphasizes the importance of predicting, monitoring comprehension, and employing fix-it strategies in order to correct when needed (p. 329). I failed to utilize these strategies when I was younger, but have come to understand them now that I am more mature and have finally understood the importance of reading. Looking back at my evolution in reading, I can say that there are still some children today who are like me. It is simply easier to focus attention to games and having fun, but with more teaching techniques used in pre-school and grade-school today, children get to practice and learn reading and writing techniques effectively.
Writing, when I was younger, was also difficult. I was always having problems with wordiness, and this was because I found it hard to separate important ideas from those which are not. However, as I grew older and learned to exercise the reading strategies I was taught when I was younger, I learned how to focus more on the important ideas. I am now able to write on my own with a clear understanding of the purpose of writing. As reflected in my journal, I only choose the important ideas that I feel are relevant to my experiences in life. Most of these ideas were linked to some experience I had in the past, or something I have learned from previous readings or lessons. I tend to highlight these ideas when writing, and this makes my writing straight to the point and insightful. In the journal, I put spcific attention to the last chapter of the book which gave me the strongest impact. It was in the final chapter, and this to me signified the culmination of my whole reading experience. Frank, the main character, replied to the Wireless Officer’s question about his observation of America, seeking confirmation by way of question that “America is a great country.” (McCourt, 1996, p.235). Frank replied with a simple “’Tis,” (McCourt, 1996, p.235) and with that short word was his confirmation that all would be better for him and his family.


McCourt, F.(1996). Angela’s Ashes. New York, NY: Scribner.
Weaver,C. (2002). Reading Process and Practice, Third Edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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