With the Literacy Volunteers of America, I tutor English as a New Language to refugees and immigrants coming here for a life better than the one they left behind. The Literacy Volunteers is a national organization focusing on teaching literacy skills to adults. They also provide Basic Literacy tutoring to adult students who do not know how to read or who have very low reading skills. People come here to learn, motivated by all kinds of different life aspects. Each student has different goals, needs, and talents. As tutors, the primary question we’re taught to ask throughout our relationship with our student is “Why are you trying to learn English? Why do you want to learn to read?” We have to let go of our own Lofty Goals baggage and focus on the student’s goals. This is, of course, a continuing struggle for me. My goals are not their goals.
Today, I’m sitting in the Literacy Volunteers office waiting for a tardy student.
A Basic Literacy student (an adult native speaker of English who is learning to read) is chatting with a staff member in the next room.
I’m nosy and overhearing this conversation: Student is busting-at-the-gills excited to have purchased all of the Stephanie Meyer Twilight series. She now owns four books, a totally new thing for her previously having had no reason to own a book. She’s telling Staff Member about the story, “I thought it was a little weird that the girl gets pregnant from the vampire.” Student concludes the conversation with the note that she set out to learn to read in order to be able to read these books that her friends were talking about.
The popularity of the Twilight series motivated an illiterate adult to learn to read?
Heh-heh. This amused me. I have three students right now and have been tutoring for 15 years. And *still* I have so much to learn: Twilight as valid and lofty literacy goal. Great. I’ll take it.