May 7, 2012
This week, we have a story from Brantford, Ontario. The author, Shanda Laberge, has recently been enrolled in literacy classes at the Grand Erie District School Board Literacy and Basic Skills program in Brantford.
My reading problems have affected my life in countless ways. From childhood on, I had always had problems with reading and spelling. But, my story starts in high school. Very seldom did I attend classes while I was enrolled in high school. I was what people would call a troubled teen. My reading skills were such an embarrassment, it made me hate school.
My last memory of school is one that has continuously haunted me; it’s of my grade ten cooking class. The teacher in this class had everyone participate in reading through a story about salmonella poisoning. She began assigning parts of the story to each student, and we were to read it out loud. I remember sitting at that table, praying that my name wouldn’t be called. When it was called I had a silent panic attack, my legs had gone numb and I felt like I was going to pass out. At that moment when my name was called I had said to the teacher, “I’d rather not read today.” Her reply was, “Yes, Shanda I want you to read this paragraph.” Now, I was feeling ill, and I didn’t know how to get out of it. So I tried pleading with her by saying, “Please, I don’t want to.” At this moment my classmates had started laughing at me. I was extremely embarrassed, and walked out of the classroom. This was one of the last days I spent in that school.
Due to the fact that I had dropped out of school and was without responsibility, my Mom felt it was time for me to get a job. I did as she said, and started job hunting. Without my knowledge, my Mom had talked to her boss at work; he had agreed to give me a job in his factory. I took this job gladly. I would have never been able to make a proper resume or fill out a job application. With this job came more responsibilities, I was to pay my Mom rent and gas money for my rides to work. At this time I was only fifteen years old and had never had to be this accountable before. This would be the time when I would figure out what the real world was really like.
As life went on, and years had passed me by I had been through a few different jobs, and never really liked any of them. Due to the fact that I decided to become a mother at the young age of 18, I had no choice but to keep jobs I didn’t like. Often my reading problems would interfere with my job. I believe that is what caused me to dislike my jobs even more. How could someone who was hiding the fact that she couldn’t read, ever feel comfortable in a work environment?
Once my child became of school age, I really started to dread the fact that she would soon start to figure out that her Mommy wasn’t able to read. This was one of the worst feelings I had ever experienced. I couldn’t imagine myself trying to explain to a four year old that I couldn’t read. I knew something had to be done.
The next step I took was to admit my problem to others and try to find help. I did some searching to the best of my abilities at the time, and ended up finding a private tutor. This only lasted a few months, due to the fact that the cost to have her help was just too much for me to afford.
At this point I had quit a job working for a collections agency. I had a hard time keeping up with the reading that was required. I was always very uncomfortable at this job. Quitting it was not easy on my home life. I had no income and that alone was a huge problem. If it wasn’t for my Mother helping me I would have been without a place for my child and me to live. I found myself feeling like a huge disappointment and didn’t know if I would ever be able to change. I had fallen into a depression. I couldn’t see myself ever being self sufficient, and didn’t know how I would ever be able to provide for my child.
After a few months of not having any income, I had two choices, go get help from social assistance or have no place to live. My Mother could no longer provide for my child and me, so I did what I had to do. At first I was extremely ashamed that I had to go down this road, but soon realized this could be my second chance. I was always fortunate to have social workers who were always kind to me, and were willing to help as much as possible.
[This story was taken with permission, from the Laubach Literacy Ontario website, under Success Stories.]