February 14, 2000
This week, we are launching 8 stories from Prince George, BC and as a special event you can read their stories as well as hear them. The learners are from two programs in Prince George : the Native Friendship Centre as well as College and Career Preparation at the College of New Caledonia.
Rudolph Pelger has attended several programs at the College of New Caledonia over the years. He started out in the VALT (volunteer adult literacy tutoring) program and then moved on to completing the welding course. His goal is to complete his high school graduation certificate but currently is working full-time. Rudy has had stories published before while in the VALT program, in a series of Learner Stories.
Play an audio version of this story
So you know how to read and write. Well let me tell you all about being able to read. I should know because I couldn't read until now. A man or woman that doesn't know how to read can hide it very well.
It started in school in grade 1. My teacher was prejudiced against me and my parents. Every time I had to ask her a "question" she said sit down and figure it out yourself. The other boys and girls asked her questions. She would help them.
So I did nothing in school that year
The next year I learned some but not a lot. In the third year of school I had the same teacher that I had in grade 1. She did the same thing to me. That is when I learned how to go through school without learning to read. That made me lose interest in reading.
It was easier to fool the teacher tham my parents. My parents tried to help me to read, but I had no interest any more. They finally lost interest too and gave up.
When I started to work it was very hard to fill out applications. Somehow a person can figure it out themself or they get some help. They get someone in the family or a very close friend to help them. The friends are understanding and try to help out as much as possible in reading. They are often a lifelong friend. Only a very few of their friends know of the problem they have. For example if a friend brings a joke that you have to read and someone you trust is there, you would say something like (why don't you read it out loud so we can all hear it). Sometimes a person they trust would read it without saying a thing.
Some of my employers that I have had didn't know that I couldn't read. A person who can't read usually gets a labourers job. Some people that can't read, drive trucks, loaders, forklifts, and buses, etc. A lot of them are running machines in sawmills. To run a machine is very easy. Most of the machines are usually figured out by the person themself in an hour or so. The paper work is not so easy to figure out. They usually ask the foreman to help them do it properly. If he still doesn't know how to fill out the papers, he will ask the person who he is working with to show him again. He will use some excuse that the foreman didn't show him how to do it very well. Or he will use the excuse that he had forgotten how to do it. Like the time I was driving a forklift at the plywood plant. Driving was very easy for me. They said that I was one of the best drivers they had, and were sorry to see me go. The paper work I had to do took me about two days to learn. It took me about a week or so to know how to do it right. When I had learned the paper work, it was a lot of fun driving forklift.
The next two jobs I had were driving tow trucks. Again the papers took me a day or so to learn them.
When you live on your own it is hard to cook good food for yourself. You can't read a recipe or know how much ingredients to put in. You have to learn how to cook by taste. Pies, cakes, etc. A person that can't read does not know how to make them.
Going shopping for food or records is almost impossible. To look for a record that I like is almost impossible. If I hear a song that I like, I will ask the person who is is playing it, the name of the record.
Reading a book usually took about 15 minutes, because I would not get through the first page. It would frustrate me, so the book used to go across the room in the air. That made me very angry not being able to read. I gave up trying to read, but not any more.