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The Shell is Open and I'm on my way out

      Well where do I start? I guess from the beginning. When I think back to kindergarten, I think that was when I noticed that I was behind the other kids in reading and writing. All the other kids could write their names on a piece of paper and could say their ABC’s but I could not. I always seemed to struggle with my reading and writing. I was put in a special class but it did not seem to help me. My math was okay but not my reading and writing. Year after year I would be held back until I was in grade five and the school decided to move me to grade nine because of my age. I was too old to be in grade five any more. The high school put me in special classes for grade nine and grade ten. I did not understand why I was in high school when I still could not read and write. I thought because my grandmother could not read or even write her own name that I would be just like her. I thought I got it from her. I decided after grade ten, I would quit school. I thought I would never learn how to read and write so why stay in school.

      I got married and had four children. When they were little I could not read a story to them. I would make up stories from the pictures in the books. That only worked for a while. But the hard part was that I had to rely on their Dad to help them with reading and writing. They always went to their Dad for help with their homework and school assignments. I could never read letters or report cards from school and would never write notes to the school if my kids needed one. I would get their Dad to write the note and I would sign it. No one knew I could not read except my husband and a few people in my family. My kids are good readers and did well in school. I am happy they did so well even though I could not help them with their reading and writing. I was worried they would be like me. I raised my four kids. One of my children was disabled from an accident when he was a small child and I was his sole care giver for many years. When he passed away I was in my forties and I thought it was time to better myself but was not sure were to start.

      In my past if I was asked to fill out a form I would just throw it away or ask my mom or sister to fill it out. I would not tell the person who gave me the form that I could not read or write. When I was 30 years old I needed to get my driver’s licence but I had trouble reading the questions. Because I needed it for my kids, I accepted help from the person working in the licence office. She asked me the questions and I answered her. I did not let my embarrassment get in the way of getting my licence. I passed the test and got my 365. When I would go to a restaurant I would just order whatever the person I was with would order or ask for the special. I would wait and hope that what I was getting was not gross, but I would eat it anyway. I would never go to job interviews because I did not want anyone to know I could not read or write.

  When my husband and I separated I did not have a job and had no way to pay my bills. I had to apply for assistance. The day I meet my support worker, I did not know she was going to test me on my reading and writing. I could not do it. If there was a back door I would have left. I was embarrassed to tell her that I could not do the test. I could not leave and she knew something was wrong. I had to tell her I could not read or write very well. She said I was not the first person to admit that to her. She told me about the Midland Area Reading Council and that they could help me with my reading and writing.

  It bothered me that when I would try to email my children, they could not understand what I was trying to say. I did not know how to spell the words. It was time I tried to get help from the Reading Council. It was scary going into the Reading Council the first time. It was very hard for me to ask for help and even harder to go though the first meeting. I sat with a total stranger who was asking me to try to read and try to write something. I was very uncomfortable and it was embarrassing. The first time I sat in a group class I was so scared and nervous. I did not want to talk or participate in group work. I was surprised when I saw that the other students were the same as me. They also struggled with reading and writing. We were the same and after a while I began to participate in the group work and even tried to read out loud. I slowly came out of my shell.

      I have been at the Reading Council for less than two years. In that time I have worked very hard with the help of the Reading Council’s teachers to get better in reading and writing. My children say that I have improved in my reading and writing a lot in the short time I have been at the Reading Council. They are very proud of me.

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      Now I go on interviews and I have confidence in myself. I tell them my reading is not that strong but ask them not to hold it against me. It is not so scary anymore.

      Now I don’t have as much trouble with filling in forms and I am not embarrassed to say I need help.

      Now I can read stories to my grandchildren and my children enjoy reading the emails that I send them.

      Now I read the menu, order for myself and get what I want to eat. It is nice not getting stuck eating something like liver. Funny thing is that over the years I learned to like liver.

      Now I am a proud reader and thank the Reading Council for helping me. Reading was something I thought I would never be able to do.  

“It was like I was behind a door and now I have opened it”