Please read this carefully – because you can. For many thousands of Aucklanders, born here or recent arrivals, it will be a struggle. Adults who have difficulties with reading, writing or ‘rithmetic need help – and helping them would be a massive boost to our region and our economy. Rowena Orejana reports.
Terrene Gibson has always struggled with reading and writing. Ordinary chores became huge tasks that she tried to avoid: reading school notices; finding people in phone books; worst, filling out forms. She avoided forms at all costs.
“When I first arrived in Auckland, they asked me for my address. I didn’t know how to spell Titirangi, I didn’t know how to spell Auckland. I didn’t know how to spell my address. It was devastating.” she remembers.
Almost half a million adult Aucklanders have low literacy and numeracy.
Many, like Ms Gibson, construct their lives so they do not have anything to do with reading or writing.
Her life was difficult. “I had a rough upbringing. When I went to school, school was a safe place for me. And that doesn’t happen for most people with literacy problems,” she explains. “But I had so much going on in my personal life that schooling was too overwhelming. I was too busy surviving.” she relates.
What she discovered is that she is clever in a lot of things. “Just because I didn’t read and write doesn’t mean I’m dumb,” she says. “I was encouraged to understand what I was good at. They’ve given me the opportunity to share my knowledge.”
Ms Gibson has now trained as a tutor, completing one Level 5 certificate course (CALT), and she is currently working on another (NCALE). She is teaching our Kai Time group, looking at the reading and writing and numeracy that surrounds cooking. She also works with other reading and writing, and numeracy groups and one-to-one students. She is still happily improving her skills and her confidence, and is an inspiration to students: a real life example of what you can achieve if you put your mind to it!
“As an adult, you can still learn. I think it is scarier to stay where you are. The initial fear of finding help is really small compared to the self-esteem you’ll gain.”