By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Most people associate literacy with reading and writing skills.
Amanda Sladek, an assistant English professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, looks at the term a little differently.
Sladek won’t dismiss the value of proper grammar and word comprehension, but she also understands literacy can mean different things for different people.
“We all have our own knowledge and our own literacies that are worthy of respect and worthy of academic consideration,” Sladek said.
She challenged students in her English 101 class to think about literacy in new ways by creating short videos that highlight their development in a specific area.
The students, all freshmen who received the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation Scholarship, came up with some diverse ideas, ranging from lessons learned through athletics to overcoming a fear of public speaking and adapting to a new culture in the United States.
Corinne Bredthauer explored how literacy is connected to music.
The exercise science major from Lincoln suffered her fourth major concussion as a junior in high school, ending her soccer career and impacting her ability to read.
“A lot of things in my life changed, and one of those things was reading,” she said. “It was really hard for me to read because I couldn’t focus and my brain wouldn’t process words.”
Having lost two of her biggest joys, Bredthauer struggled with depression before joining the school choir. Then, music became a new literacy for her, a way to connect with people and cope with a difficult situation.
She paid closer attention to lyrics, searching for messages and the emotions a song can elicit – similar to reading a book.
“It taught me to really listen to the lyrics,” she said. “They can be moving. You can turn on any type of song and it just puts you in a mood.”
Turning her story into a video was challenging, according to Bredthauer, but she’s pretty proud of the final product.
Maybe, she said, it will inspire others to listen to music more carefully and think about the words in a different way.
Alyssa Hoisington, a family studies major from Lexington, had a tough time coming up with a topic for her video project before Sladek encouraged her to think about something personal.
The result is an homage to her late mother and the special connection they share.
Hoisington loved reading and writing because of her mother Karen, who was always sharing stories with her daughter.
When Karen passed away during Hoisington’s freshman year of high school, that joy left with her.
Hoisington didn’t like talking about the loss, so she wrote about it in an essay that helped her earn a Kearney Bound Scholarship to attend UNK.
“That kind of helped me get back on track,” Hoisington said.
She started writing notes and letters to her mother as part of the healing process and rediscovered their shared love for this literacy.
“It’s like a piece of her that I have with me,” she said.
Hoisington knows her video will be “a little sadder” than the others, but it also contains an important message.
“No matter what, don’t quit doing something you love,” she said.
The student videos, each about five to six minutes long, will be featured during a film festival scheduled for 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday (Dec. 11) at The World Theatre, 2318 Central Ave., in downtown Kearney.
Sladek said the event, which is free and open to the public, adds another level of learning for students by making them think about an audience outside the classroom.
Hopefully, she said, attendees will be entertained while also developing a new perspective on literacy.
“I think it’s going to be a really interesting event. This is a great way to show the community the work that’s being done by students at UNK and students in the English department,” said Sladek, who plans to incorporate the assignment into her research on composition instruction.
Bredthauer is both nervous and excited for her debut as a video producer.
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking, but it will be cool to see everyone’s videos and the different points of view,” she said.
VIEW THE VIDEOS
A film festival featuring video literacy narratives produced by UNK Thompson Scholars is scheduled for 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday (Dec. 11) at The World Theatre, 2318 Central Ave., in downtown Kearney. The event, supported by funding from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, is free and open to the public.