Tannis Atkinson has worked a literacy
worker in a community-based program Toronto. She has also been instrumental in
the formation of an Ontario-based literacy network. She is currently freelance
writer and continues to be involved in the Ontario literacy community.
Anne Moore is an active member of Metro
Toronto Movement for Literacy (MTML) and a literacy worker at Park Project Read
(PPR) Toronto. She brings to work a rich experience working in and visiting
Tracy Westell has been a literacy worker at
PPR for years. She has contributed a lot of time to the formation the Ontario
Literacy Coalition and to lobbying the provincial and federal governments for
We are three women who have
worked in community based literacy in Toronto over the last several years. We
decided to write a piece together about women and literacy but we didn't have
time to get together. As we were all off on our summer vacations we realized
that we would all be thinking about work anyway, and decided to write letters
to each other.
Letters were a natural
choice for all of us for different reasons: Tannis had traveled a lot and found
through letters a strong connection with friends; Anne felt it was a personal
way of communicating her ideas because she knew who she was talking to; for
Tracy, letter writing is informal and direct and allows you to have a voice a
way that essay writing doesn't. All three of us are white, middle class,
university educated women with a shared experience of the education system. We
all feel that the education system discouraged us from writing from a personal
perspective. The directness and honesty of the learners we have worked with has
inspired us to rediscover the voices we lost through our formal education.
The place we all visited this
summer helped us to focus our concerns about education and women. When we met
after our holidays we were delighted and surprised by the number of shared
themes running through our letters and thoughts.
In September we sat around a
kitchen table and read our letters aloud to one another. We realized that these
were things that we had all been thinking about for years. We had never before
talked about them and felt unsure whether anybody else of shared our feelings.
Our letters were affirming
for each other but also saddened us. Around us in our work we see the energy
and ideals of community literacy workers being worn away; the obstacles
standing between women, and education that affirms us; the way the education
system unjustly and ineffectively uses its resources.
Particularly we were struck
that although women are the majority of literacy workers, volunteer tutors and
potential learners, women's issues are virtual of ignored, even by ourselves.
Like pots simmering on the back burners, we have kept quiet for too long. It's
time we take a risk and come to a boil.