Category Archives: book

Passion for Literacy

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I thought it might be kind of interesting? fun? different? this month to share a few things I’m passionate about, since it is the “Month of Love” and all.

hello february

Today, you get a dose of something I have recently become passionate about- literacy.

I never realized how important literacy was within my community or how passionate I am about literacy until last year. (As if my degree in Linguistics & Spanish didn’t give it away…)

I moved back home from school in December 2011 and started seeking ways to get involved in the ESOL community. My project for Senior Seminar was a whole proposal as to how I would start up an ESOL program in Durham.  I figured volunteering would be the perfect way to practice my Spanish while building relationships and helping people…and getting my foot in the door of the ESOL community. When I found the perfect volunteer opportunity the following month, I made a super last-minute decision (remember how I crave quick changes?) to switch from teaching ESOL to teaching Adult Literacy- basic literacy skills to adults who had never learned to read or write. I was trained, matched with a student, and started teaching him phonics all within a two-week period.

Those two weeks were eye-opening as I met a man in his 50’s who had never learned to read or write. Only his ex-wife knew about his illiteracy, and he was determined to keep it a secret from everyone else he knew. This man had gone through the public education system in Barbados, moved to the States, had multiple handyman jobs, all while not know how to read something as simple as a street sign. It was mind-blowing that someone could go that long without being able to write a birthday card, fill out an application, or order from a menu that didn’t have pictures.

The beginning was a struggle for him- learning the sounds of letters and putting them together to create a word was almost like learning a foreign language. We worked with letter tiles, flash cards, sound cards, reading lists, and despite all the repetition of words like “sad” “rat” “mat” “mad” “sat” he would still struggle.

One day, after a few weeks, everything clicked for him. He began tapping out words and hearing them right away, reading words off a list correctly, and writing sentences just as I dictated them.I

Sure, each new sound had its issues. After he was comfortable with “i” I brought “e” into the mix, and we were stuck reviewing and reinstating the differences between the two sounds although they sometimes come in the same environments. (like “rid” & “red”) A few weeks ago when I introduced the “th” digraph, I’m pretty sure he hated me. Because of his thick accent, he just couldn’t hear the “th” in words like “with” “thin” “thick” “math” “Beth.” We’re still reviewing the sound, and he’s getting better with more practice, and of course I know he’ll master it soon!

I teach my student using the Wilson Reading System. It’s a very structured system and lesson plan, that allows around an hour for instruction time, and thirty minutes at the end for controlled reading, worksheets, etc. I’ve always had a hard time coming up with something to work on for the last bit of the lesson- my student mainly just wants to sit and talk. While planning a lesson back in September, I picked up a phonetically controlled book, Dad and Sam, on a whim. I thought I could let my student give it a try. Long story short, (but you can read the story here) he read the book. By himself. We both cried.

There’s something so powerful about literacy, and sharing that gift is priceless. 

I’m so thankful for literacy, and that I have a passion for it. I’m also lucky that the position I currently have is one that allows me to spread the word about the importance of literacy and help people who need it. It opens so many doors for people- academically, emotionally, professionally- and it’s priceless! Not a day goes by that I don’t use my literacy skills in some way or another, and I can’t imagine someone not being able to do the things I can do because of a lack of literacy. A week ago it was National Literacy Action Week, and it was exciting spreading the word about literacy!!

What are some things you are passionate about? Are you passionate about literacy?

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Friday Favorites

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It’s FRIDAY! Which means it’s time for another round of my Friday Favorites! Enjoy 🙂

Kevin Love shaved his head for Breast Cancer Awareness month (October) and for every like, watch & share of the video, Love and Fitzgerald would donate 25 cents! Click below and watch!

Spread the Love

A delicious tortilla soup recipe that I plan on trying ASAP!

Cool personalized games & gifts for the holidays from Pinhole Press!

I just discovered Lonely Dinosaur this week and this shirt made me laugh:

If you’re feeling adventurous this weekend, here are 5 ways to make a fort! Great way to entertain kids on days when it’s too cold to play outside! Read the rest of this entry

Dad and Sam

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Do you remember the first book you ever read? What was it about? How old were you?

Honestly, I don’t remember what book I read or what it was about, but I probably was young… maybe 4 or 5. I don’t even remember learning how to read, it’s just something that came naturally and easily for me.

Last Thursday night, my 53-year old adult literacy student read a book (Dad and Sam) for the first time. That was the first book he had ever read.

53 years of not being able to read a simple children’s book… can you imagine?

I’ve been teaching him since January… months and months of simple phonics, repetitive lessons with words like sadmap, rat, tag, lid, job, hot, pit, nag, rot… months of practicing and homework and flash cards and writing sentences. Months of hard work all paid off on Thursday night.

For some random reason, I picked up a Hooked on Phonics book for my student to try to read in class. And I kind of laughed to myself after seeing how childish and easy it was. Oh if only I knew how much gravity that book would have.

“So we’re done with the lesson but I picked out a book for you. It’s a little kid book so it might be silly but I want you to try to read it.”

“I will try.”

I hand him the book. He looks at the cover, squints, and says, “Dad and… Sam?”

“Yes, great job! Now open it up.”

“What’s this?” he asks pointing to the first page, confused about where to start reading.

“This is called a cover page. See, there’s the title, and the author and illustrator- the person who drew the pictures. What’s the title again?”

“Dad and Sam.”

“Good. Now flip the page.”

“Dad h-a-d… Dad had a …hat.”

“Yes! Keep going.”

Pages were turned. Simple sentences were read. And when he finished the last sentence and closed the book, he hunkered his shoulders, lowered his head into his hands, and started sobbing.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted out through the tears.

I was in shock for a few moments… “It’s ok, don’t apologize. You just did something amazing, A. You read a book! You did so great.” I patted his shoulder, in hopes to comfort and encourage him.

His sobbing continued so I grabbed a box of tissues. He took one… two… three… trying to compose himself and wipe the tears from his face. “I’m sorry,” he said again.

I let him take his time. I didn’t want to ask questions or press him to read it again but when he picked up the book I quietly asked, “do you want to read it again?”

“Yes. Dad and Sam…”

The second time after finishing, he put the book down, took a deep breath, and covered his mouth as if he wanted to stop the inevitable words from coming out.

“You know… it’s been hard. I’ve lived a hard life. Nobody except my ex-wife knew about my… my disability. I haven’t let it hold me back though… I’ve had lots of good jobs and I know lots of skills, but I can’t read. If you ever have kids stick with them and teach them to read. I didn’t have that and I couldn’t do that for my son and it’s been so hard…”

I let him talk, vent, confide some of his hardships and past experiences to me. He went on for nearly twenty minutes, bringing me to tears a few times because of the pain with which he said the words “my disability.”

“You should be really proud of yourself, you know. I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you. And I thank you for all you do. I couldn’t have done this without you. I thank you for your time.”

That’s when I started crying again. Hearing how thankful he was for my help, especially after he had told me how hard his life had been because of his disability.

After we had both composed ourselves and said our goodbyes until the next class, I sat in the room still in shock about what had happened… about how lightly I had taken the whole ‘reading a book’ thing, and about how harsh the word disability sounded coming from his mouth.

Illiteracy is a form of a disability, but I hate hearing someone say that. Illiteracy holds you back in so many ways… more ways than I can even imagine. My student (and others at the center where I serve & volunteer) can’t look at a menu in a restaurant, can’t read street signs, can’t read his own mail. I can’t imagine living in a world without literacy. Without the ability to read. And that’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about volunteering and helping A learn to read and write. I’m passionate about giving him the gift of literacy… about turning his so-called disability into an ability.

My student read a book for the first time at 53-years old. And that’s just the beginning. He will read many, many more books during our time working together, and far into the future. Soon, A’s disability will become his ability. I can’t wait to see just how much this will help his life and change him as a person. I can’t wait to see the excitement on his face when he finishes his second book. I can’t wait to hear him read more books.

You’re never too old to learn to read your first book.

Friday Favorites

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Another busy week is (almost) in the books for me! Because it’s been so stinkin’ busy, I haven’t had much time for online article scouting, but thanks to twitter yet again, I am somewhat up-to-date with recent happenings and cool news stories. Here are some of my favorites from the week:

A piece of the moon goes up for auction. The auction ends October 13th, so you still have time to snag this chunk of the moon.

Turner Classic Movies & Fathom Events are teaming up and bringing E.T. back to the big screen for the 30th Anniversary Event on October 3rd! I haven’t watched the movie in years because it always creeps me out, but I might be willing to give it another shot!

Speaking of older classic movies, Sarah P. Duke Gardens will be showing Back to the Future next Wednesday night around sundown! Picnic and movie in the park, anyone? 😉

Did you know that some famous authors had a little backyard shed or writing hut where they wrote some of their works? How cool would it be to have a cute little escape from the world like that?! Read the rest of this entry