I’ve seen this connection in action a few times this past year. It’s exciting and awe-inspiring when you witness it. There is an emergence of personal power, a newfound freedom and the conquering of fear, all through literacy and learning.
In our Adult Tutoring program, I have watched a young woman work hard over the years to develop reading and writing skills. This year, I saw her wrap her newly developed confidence and power around herself and pursue the goal of becoming an advocate for other adult learners. She has made four public presentations and spoken on the radio about her learning journey and how it has shaped who she is. She wants to show other adults who struggle that they can do it and that there is help available. She’s set learning goals and worked hard to meet them. Last month she read a book for pleasure for the first time. Literacy has opened a new world for her, one where she has a voice and she is ready to use it.
In our Tech Time program for seniors, I have heard comments like, “I’m not afraid anymore” and “I can do this now.” It was a delight to watch a senior in our community begin a texting conversation with his grandson. He has a new ability to connect in a way that he wasn’t able to before. He has achieved a sense of freedom, power, and inclusion, all through learning basic technology skills.
At a Come Read with Me workshop, one dad told me that he was physically anxious when he entered the room. He was remembering how school was frustrating for him and how he had felt a constant sense of failure. He saw his young son having a similar experience at school and feared that he, too, had a difficult path ahead. That dad left the workshop feeling like he had ‘tools in his back pocket’ that he could use in supporting his son’s reading and learning. He was able to let go of his own fear and sense of dread and felt empowered to support his son in learning to read.
Sometimes, that freedom and power comes quickly, like a light switch being turned on. You learn to do something you couldn’t do before, and the world opens up. Sometimes it is a long and slow road, where building the skills takes time, dedication, and perseverance. One thing for sure, learning is lifelong and life-wide. We continue to find new freedoms and new powers as we embrace learning throughout our lives.
Benjamin Carson is a pediatric surgeon and co-founder of the Carson Fund. The fund supports education for young people of all backgrounds. As Dr. Carson says, “Knowledge is power – to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, and to make better decisions.”
For more information about literacy programs in your community, contact your local CBAL community literacy coordinator.
Community Literacy Coordinator – Nelson
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy