By Diane Shimota
People often ask why adults need help with their reading and writing. Over the last 10 years, the Redlands Adult Literacy Program has learned that each adult learner has their own unique reason for seeking help with literacy.
For example, some adult learners have learning disabilities and need the one-on-one tutoring that the literacy program can provide. Other learners were unable to complete their education because their native country or their family’s economic circumstances did not allow them to advance beyond elementary school. These learners may work on fundamental skills that will allow them to eventually work on gaining their high school diploma or its equivalent.
Some learners graduated from high school but did not master the reading and writing skills necessary for getting advanced certifications or taking college-level classes. Other adult learners have completed high school and are working, but do not have the necessary skills to respond to the ever-increasing literacy requirements of the workplace. Through individualized support and hard work, adult learners overcome obstacles to further their own or their children’s education and/or advance in their career.
The following are examples of learners who have overcome past obstacles to improve their literacy:
Isabel Vidrio grew up in Mexico and attended school through grade 6; Higher levels of schooling were unavailable to her as a child because there was no middle school in her town and there was not enough money for her to go to another town for school. When she joined the literacy program in Redlands, her goals were to improve her reading comprehension and writing skills so that she could communicate with her children’s teachers and help her children with school. Her hard work in adult literacy enabled Vidrio to change her and her children’s lives. Vidrio earned an alcohol and drug counselor certification and volunteers her time to counsel others. She adult learner leadership training, and she is able to communicate effectively with her children’s teachers and medical professionals without using a translator. Vidrio shared, “This program is important for me because I improved my English and my reading and writing skills and am no longer afraid to talk with others.”
Jeanne Fortier, Vidrio’s tutor, wants others to know, “The adult literacy program truly changes lives! I have witnessed tremendous growth and confidence in our learners and I am so happy to be part of this amazing program.”
Pete Smith enrolled in the adult literacy program when his work requirements changed last year. He had worked as a custodian for two decades, but last year his supervisor began assigning him work through emails. This meant that he needed to be able to read his work assignments and write an email response to his supervisor. Talk-to-text functions were not robust enough for him, so he joined the Redlands Adult Literacy Program to improve his reading and writing. By meeting with his tutor twice each week, he advanced his literacy tremendously. He is now able to communicate at work through email. He also shared that he read a book for the first time, and he enjoyed it.
Another adult learner (who wishes to remain anonymous) joined the literacy program with the singular goal of gaining the reading and writing skills she needed to complete her high school education. After working diligently with her tutors for several years she improved her literacy skills, accomplished this impressive goal, and graduated from the literacy programme. She has been accepted to the adult school and is working on furthering her education by obtaining her high school diploma.
The Redlands community is enriched by the hard work and dedication of each adult learner. If you know of someone who needs help in reading and writing, please encourage them to take the first step in changing their lives by contacting the Redlands Adult Literacy Program. All services are free and confidential.
Diane Shimota is adult literacy coordinator at AK Smiley Public Library, 125 W. Vine St., Redlands. Reach her at 909-798-7565, ext. 4138.