Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful for Literacy

With it being Thanksgiving this week, I thought it would be appropriate to share a letter I received from an individual I met when visiting an adult literacy site last year. The words capture gratitude for something I feel passionate about that I think we often, as literate individuals, take for granted: literacy. Following is a major portion of the letter as I received it:

Thank you Reading Horizons

In 2006, at the age of 55, I started the Adult Education program at Holland College to continue my education and get my GED’s. I was only able to attend for a few months before I had to return to work. My experience was a good one but very hard. As a child I didn’t have a very good beginning when I attended the smaller grades in the regular school system, so when it came down to the crunch, I got used to faking it. It became a way of life, so automatic.

Then in 2007, I returned to the Adult Education program with the determination to continue and succeed. When I returned to school, I was introduced to a new research project called Reading Horizons. It was a three part project that was done on computer, by teacher or, on their own learning ability. I was on the computer part of this experiment. At first, I was skeptic of what a computer could do that years of schooling hadn’t been able to, but I soon changed my tune. I was tested with the Wood Cock Johnson method before and after the project and amazed myself at how much I improved. It was a fun project as I got to meet others who were in the same boat as I was, there was an understanding teacher there, ready to help if needed, and I was able to go at my own pace. I was able to learn how to break down words into syllables and sounds, and the computer voice gave me the ability to hear the sounds of these words I didn’t know or that I was pronouncing it wrong all along.

The program has taught me a lot and has worked for me. It has helped me to get my GED’s, as I got them about a month after the program was finished and I firmly believe that without it that goal would not have happened as quickly as it did.

I have started up an old hobby with a new outlook on things. The art of short story writing has been a passion for me since I was younger. Because of the hard time I had had in school, and people telling me that I was too stupid to do it, I foolishly let it slide, but the passion never left and I’m back, stronger, with my own dictionary that does not include stupid. Now I can write and I’m able to read what I write, and not guess at what I meant when I come across words that are miss-spelt. I now know that when others read these stories they will know what I’m writing about. These stories have grown from a page to many pages because I am now more interested in what I am writing about and how it is put together. I want more people to see the pictures in my mind and to do this I have to take them on a journey through my words. Now I can do this.

I am so grateful to Holland College, the teachers, and to the Reading Horizons program for the help they have given me. Help, I should have had forty plus years ago, and also for not giving up on me. There are so many more of us baby-boomers out there in the same boat, but didn’t get the chance I got, and I hope that someday they will get that chance. I now know how to break a word down, watch for the vowels and constants, and sound it out. I look forward to my new life of learning and understanding what I’ve read. It has become my new way of life. One in which I can help others and also the next generation the importance of good reading.

The only problems I have now are: math, metric, aging, and finance. These are questions that Reading Horizons can not answer for me, but it can help me to find the answers for myself, by researching , and how do you research? By reading, writing, and more reading and writing. I can’t speak for the teacher, or the alone part of the program, but I can speak for the computer part. I can’t say enough about the program, except that it helped me so much and gave me a new outlook in life. I think it should be in the schools. Too many children leaving grade twelve, can not read and write. We need to work together to correct this problem. Reading horizons could be a big part of this solution.

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