Being There (Waiting, Listening, Responding)

Quality Storytents and Bookwagon remain QLNB's highest profile programs, and the community has responded positively to them. We have received public recognition, awards and compliments. We have been invited to provide orientation and support to other communities who want to run Storytent programs. We've been invited to bring our tent and books to Christmas Parties and other holiday or special events. Our list of partners and the scope of our work have grown.

Still, for us, the real reward comes from the lower profile work that has grown out our relationships with this community.

There are adults we have helped with health literacy, citizenship, and small business initiatives. Some, maybe most, of these adults were unable or unwilling to find the kind of help they needed within traditional classroom settings. This is also true with respect to the core of our work: providing books and tailored support for basic literacy. We often help people who would otherwise get missed. Here, the key is always our presence within, and relationships with, the neighbourhood and its residents.

Recently, a woman approached us as we wheeled the wagon through her neighbourhood. We knew her, and knew she had reading difficulties, though she hadn't yet asked us for help. This day she said she wanted to improve her reading. “But I don’t want to go to school. What can you do for me?”

Quite a lot, probably. But the place to start was offering her some PRACE low level adult readers to look over. ("I can't even read as well as a six year old," she said, leading me to think immediately of the PRACE books.) We agreed to meet and talk after she had a chance to look the books over.

Today, we reconnected with her (once again on the sidewalk near her home). The first level PRACE's were almost too easy, she reported. She showed us the writing she had done using them. She also said she had a friend who wanted to help her.

We, in turn, explained that there were three other, increasingly difficult leveled readers in the PRACE series. Would she like to borrow them?

Yes, indeed!

And perhaps some other printed information for her friend about how to support adult literacy learning? That would be welcome as well.

In sum, we’d waited for her to approach us, found out exactly what she wanted, and found a way to provide it. Despite the oddity of doing an "intake assessment" on the sidewalk, it was a completely satisfying experience for all of us.

But, then, good community literacy work usually is.


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