Jeanne, Literacy

Before I came to P.A.L.S. I winged it. I couldn’t read a lot of basic words and it was such a struggle. I didn’t understand what I was reading. I couldn’t pronounce a lot of words or understand what they meant so I slurred my speech. I knew that I sounded bad because people made fun of me a lot. I was so self-conscious that I told no one I couldn’t read. I never told anybody.

My sister was a volunteer at P.A.L.S. I was too embarrassed to make the appointment myself so I had to ask her to do it for me. It was hard to tell her I had a problem but I had a new job and I wanted to improve myself so I could do better. I really wanted to change things.

When I first started at P.A.L.S. the best part was that I didn’t feel judged. It was private and I felt comfortable with my tutor. It was okay to make mistakes; we just got down to work and did it. She was especially good with helping me with pronouncing things. Back then I couldn’t even say pronunciation.

I was learning really fast. People didn’t know that was what was going on but my family noticed that my speech was improving. I talked more too, even at work. I started being able to communicate a lot better.

After a year my sister bought me the Twilight series and I was able to read them. I really enjoyed them and could understand them. They asked me that spring to be a speaker at the first Audrey’s Event. I would never have considered speaking anywhere before that.

Bonnie and my tutor, Joyce and I wrote my speech. We practiced reading it and breathing and when the time came I just put my head down and did it. My family attended and was so proud of me. I was so happy that they were proud of me.

Joyce nominated me for the Student Achievement Award that year and they asked me to be the Student speaker for the AGM. It was at the Art Gallery and there were over 100 people there. More speaking, I don’t know how they talk me into this.

I won the Student Award. It was a real privilege. I was so shocked. Why me? I don’t think I’m all that good. I’m just reading. My family was just thrilled for me.

The person who wins the Achievement Award gets nominated for the Canada Post Award. I never thought there was any chance I would win and I did.

Because I won the Canada Post, they are asked me to speak at the Alberta Literacy Conference. It was the last thing on their agenda and at eight in the morning. We didn’t think anybody would be there so I thought I could handle it. We got there right on time and they sat us at a table at the front. I didn’t look around very much because I was very nervous. I just got up when they called me, focused and read my story. Then I looked around and thought…Oh, my god. It was a free breakfast and 300 to 400 people showed up.

Every time I speak, people come up and are so nice to me. I didn’t realize that so many people are in the same boat, that they can’t imagine how I managed it, or how they could do it. You just focus. One thing at a time. Put your head down and do it.

I didn’t think about whether reading was going to be difficult, I just wanted to do it. When I look back at where I was when I started, I can’t believe I am where I am now. I can sit down and read something and enjoy it. I like words and play games with them on my hand held dictionary. I can work on my computer at work and I built a parts book with over 3000 pictures and codes in it. Literacy has changed my life.

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