September 4, 2001
The following story was written by Peter Brown, from North Bay, Ontario. Peter's story profiled here explains his journey to literacy, but it does not mention his love of teaching. To cope with the frustrations of not being able to read, Peter took up Martial Arts. He found his strength. He enjoyed learning all the different techniques and did so well that he became an instructor. Peter really enjoyed teaching his students and helping them to improve themselves and develop their inner discipline. Peter also has two children who have worked hard to enter college and university. He has encouraged and motivated them by telling them that they could be anything they wanted to be. By admitting his literacy problems, Peter has taken the steps he needs to fulfil his dreams and give him the written words to express the poems that have always formed in his head, but had no way out.
Once upon a time - long, long ago, there was an older man who thought he was too old to learn new things. You see this man could not read or write. He was border-line illiterate. He had missed a lot of chances at really good jobs throughout his life because of it. But he was doing OK at the job he had.
Still he was not happy with himself. He felt that by settling for just any job he was letting his family down. This was never the case. Although he still felt like he was. So he decided to learn how to fight to build his self-esteem. He thought that if he was a good fighter he could protect his family. Because of exposure to chemicals at work he got sick and lost his job. He had to give up his Martial Arts as well. Now he was lost and had no idea what to do or where to go. Everyone would tell him if you could only just read and write you could get lots of jobs.
So he decided to try to learn how to read and write better. His wife and kids, who always believed in him, talked him into it. It took a lot of coaxing. With their help he found the North Bay Literacy Council. There he met a lady named Nancy who also believed he could learn. This would be a big challenge for Nancy. He was still feeling pretty low and worthless. Nancy went to work on him - just like building a house. She started from the ground up. First she built his confidence and then she started to teach him how to learn to read and write. There were times he thought his head would explode. Probably Nancy felt like that too, but if she did, she didn't show it.
That man was me four years ago. Now I am a part of another learning program. I am in the Learning Connection I've learned a lot from the two terrific people there who put up with a lot of teasing and made learning a lot of fun. Their names are Tod and Paula.
How does this story turn out? I think if you've read this story you already know the answer. Not being able to read and write is nothing to be ashamed of, but doing nothing about it is.