OUR WORDS, OUR VOICES
Writings by Literacy Plus Learners
Never Give Up
By: Lanette Pruitt
I went to school in Mississippi. When I was in kindergarten, I knew my ABCs and numbers. I remember the book, Fun with Dick and Jane. My teacher, Ms. Benji, helped me to understand reading and writing. I do not remember having trouble in kindergarten.
By the fourth and ﬁfth grades, things were a lot harder. I was in a really big class.I remember the teacher would explain things to me over and over. I just could not get it. I felt so embarrassed. I was so lost that I didn’t know how to ask for help. Other kids would laugh because I didn’t know how to do math or read well. The teacher tried to stop them from making fun of me, but they kept doing it.
The classes were too advanced for me. I failed the third, fourth and sixth grades. My twin sister, Annette, stayed back with me. Annette did not have to stay back, but she wanted to help me. Annette tried. She would explain things over and over, but slow me—I couldn’t get anything.
There was no one else at home who could help me. My older sister and brothers were busy. My mother could not help me with schoolwork. She had been the oldest of 12 kids. My mother dropped out of school, in the third grade, to help with her younger sisters and brothers.
They put me in a special class where kids could learn at their own pace. The kids worked in small groups. The teacher came around to see if I understood the work. She was very patient. I was able to learn better in that class. I liked reading and writing even though I did not understand all of it. When that teacher asked me to read out loud, I was afraid other kids would laugh, but they didn’t. I wasn’t embarrassed in that class.
I went to a diﬀerent school in the ninth grade. The classes were very big. We had to change classes three times a day. The school did not have special classes. The books were big and very hard. I could not understand them.
Sometimes teachers called me to the board to do problems. I never knew what to do. The teacher would tell me to try anyway. People in the class laughed at me. They called me names, like “Dumb Bunny.” Annette couldn’t help anymore because she was busy with her own work. The teachers were not helpful. I just wanted to give up.
In the tenth grade the same thing happened. I was supposed to understand very hard books about science, history and math on my own. I couldn’t. I stopped trying to ask for help.
In the tenth grade they gave me a special test to see what level I was on. I was not sure I could do the test. It was hard and confusing, but I did not ask questions. I failed the test. I had to repeat the tenth grade. Repeating the grade didn’t help. I didn’t really learn anything.
When I started the eleventh grade, I knew it was going to be even worse. I knew I was not going to learn anything. I decided school was not for me. I dropped out. I ﬁgured I could get a job.
I got a job in housekeeping at the Holiday Inn. At ﬁrst, I thought things would be easier. I knew how to work, but I did not understand how to read the forms showing what rooms to clean. I also had trouble ﬁlling out the forms. I ﬁlled out what I could and asked for help. People were helpful, but I saw that work, like school, was going to be hard. I needed to be able to read and write better.
Later, I got into a nurses’ aide program in a community school. Our class was very small and the teacher was patient. I remember having so much trouble with things like blood pressure. At the end of the course, everyone passed the ﬁnal exam, except me.
The teacher called me back. He said that he believed I could do it. The teacher helped me, one on one, until I was able to pass the exam. I studied hard and did not give up. I got my license. I was so proud!
I moved to California after Hurricane Katrina. When I wanted a volunteer job, I went to a class at Kaiser Hospital. There were about 15 people who also wanted to volunteer. We sat around a table. The person in charge asked us questions. When it was my turn, I didn’t know how to answer the questions. I could not read as well as the others. I was the only person who was told, in front of everyone, that I was not needed. I was so hurt and embarrassed.
My daughter-in-law told me about the Literacy Plus Program. She gave me the phone number and said it was up to me to call. I made the call. I met Frie and other people in the program.
My ﬁrst tutor had a hard time helping me. She got frustrated and gave up. Frie found me another tutor. My new tutor and I try diﬀerent things to help me read and understand things better. I am also learning how to use diﬀerent apps on my iPhone to look up things. We practice reading, writing, spelling and ﬁlling out forms. All of this has helped me.
I like reading and writing. I will keep practicing and learning. I am grateful for all of the help the Literacy Plus Program has given me. I will Never Give Up.
On these pages are the stories of life…real life…what it is really like for those who are struggling with reading and writing in our society today. These are their stories, in their own words. These stories come from their hearts and minds based on their personal experiences.
For many, each day brings with it the fear of someone finding out that they can’t read. This fear leads to questions like: Will I lose my job if they find out? Will they think I’m stupid? Will I ever get my Driver’s License? Will I ever be able to read enough to vote? You don’t ask yourself these questions because you were fortunate enough to be taught how to read and write at an early age. In fact, you’ve been reading and writing for so long that you take it for granted! You are indeed fortunate.
Take a few moments now and read the stories of those who weren’t as fortunate as you. Learn how they think, and feel, and how they found the courage to change their lives; and in so doing, you may also find that you are so inspired by these individuals’ stories that you, too, will want to become a Literacy Plus Program volunteer. We did.
The Literacy Plus Council.