So you ask, how is literacy like raspberries? Well, raspberries will grow even when neglected, they will grow in uncultivated, poor soil and even in poor light. They produce – but only small berries on small canes. If, however, they are planted in compost–rich, well-drained soil with lots of sun and air the canes thrive and the berries are huge. Literacy is like that, despite the lack of nurturing, most of us do learn to read and write, maybe not well, but enough that we can ‘get by.’ Our skills are like the small stunted berries, so much less than what they could be. If we develop our literacy skills then the world opens up and the fruit we produce - in improved employment opportunities, civic engagement, family relationships – is bigger, juicier and a whole lot sweeter!
When planted in poor soil, in sun-blocked areas, some raspberry canes will reach for the sky – for sun and rain to nurture their roots and produce fruit. Just like those who know they need literacy skills to move ahead in life, some will struggle despite the odds and succeed. They are the ones who will fight to go to school, stay in school and get the diplomas or degrees that will free them from the cycle of poverty and dead-end jobs. But others are not so lucky, canes and people, some are just unable to push their way into the sun (or school) and when they cannot they (or their opportunities) remain small, even stunted. They are the ones who, when provided the nurture and support of literacy tutors and programming, will thrive. Just like canes which are transplanted to better parts of the garden, adult learners will thrive when provided with the tools to grow and develop.
So where do the scratches come in? My raspberry canes have a multitude of prickles and tiny thorns and I have to be careful when I harvest the fruit. Developing literacy skills is similar. We hold fast to our prejudices, our opinions and our beliefs. When we think we cannot succeed, learn to read or improve our math abilities, our thorns grow and it is hard to harvest the fruit of success. When we address those problems the canes (or learners) can put more of their energy towards bearing fruit (learning or developing new skills) and less energy in maintaining the prickles of suspicion and disbelief. With the encouragement of tutors and teachers who care, learners can grow and blossom. Some old stuff may need to be pruned away, some staking will be necessary, but in the end the fruits of improved self-esteem and abilities will make the work worthwhile and the raspberry patch the best it can be!
Community Literacy Coordinator
Columbia Basin Alliance for literacy - Cranbrook