The cornerstones of literacy are reading comprehension and effective writing. Over the last two years, the Redlands Adult Literacy Program has offered tutor training and learner workshops to help learners develop stronger writing skills. The focus on writing led to ten adult learners from the Redlands Adult Literacy Program entering into the Writer-to-Writer Challenge, sponsored by the Southern California Library Literacy Network (SCLLN). The SCLLN annual Writer-to-Writer Challenge invites adult learners throughout Southern California to write a letter to an author, living or dead, whose book has inspired them.
This year ninety-five adult learners from the Southern California region submitted letters to the challenge. Literacy coordinators screened the letters and selected the top five in each of four categories. Panels of adult learners then judged the top letters and selected one winner and two runners-up for each level of writing.
The Redlands Adult Literacy Program is happy to announce that three adult learners, Marisela Casillas, Maria Hernandez, and Tanya Jauregui, earned runner-up recognition from SCLLN. Due to the Corona virus; however, the awards ceremony that would have recognized these learners has been postponed. The Redlands Adult Literacy Program acknowledges the achievement of all adult learners who submitted writing to the challenge and celebrates the three runners-up from Redlands.
Diane Shimota, adult literacy coordinator, asked each of the awardees what they had gained from their experience.
Marisela Casillas read the book Seedfolks and wrote a letter to its author Paul Fleischman. Seedfolks was the first book Marisela had read on her own. She chose to write the author because she could relate to the characters in the book.
When asked how she felt when she first learned about the Writer-to-Writer Challenge, Marisela said she was “scared.” She was not sure she wanted to participate, but she wanted to improve her literacy so she decided to try. She began the writing process by talking with her tutor about the story. She understood one of the character’s challenges, because they were similar to her own as a single woman supporting herself in a new country. When asked if she had done a lot of editing to her letter, Marisela replied, “Oh yes, many times.”
Marisela is proud of how much she has learned in the literacy program. When she re-read her letter last week she said, “Wow!” because the letter’s message still resonates with her. She would encourage all learners to submit a letter to the Writer-to-Writer Challenge.
Maria Hernandez entered the challenge with her letter to Stephanie Sammartino McPherson reflecting upon the book Peace and Bread about the life of Jane Addams. Maria was moved by the compassion Jane Addams felt for the poor, especially children and immigrants. Maria’s mother shared Jane Addams’ compassion for others and passed this along to Maria. Maria wrote, “Learning about Jane Addams inspired me to help others in the community. I provide blankets, clothes and meals to the homeless. I also care for senior citizens who are not able to drive or cook. As a mother, I also model compassion and service to my children the way my mother did for me.” Maria shares that writing a letter to an author “opens our mind to write our ideas and share our experiences about reading.”
Tanya Jauregui read Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and wrote, “…you gave me courage to find my voice and speak louder for the Adult Literacy Program… I need to keep using my voice to advocate for such an amazing program.” Tanya sees Ms. Obama as a mentor who has given her “new perspective on leadership and education.” Tanya encourages others to try to express themselves in writing because by writing their stories they may inspire others.
Reading is a personal experience and writing to an author helps readers think about how a book speaks to our own lives. Think about your favorite book. What would you say to the author of that book about why it was important to you? How has a book changed your life?
The Redlands Adult Literacy Program relies on its wonderful volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring. If you are interested in becoming a tutor, please contact the Redlands Adult Literacy Program at (909)798-7565 ext. 4138 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know of someone who needs help in reading and writing, please encourage them to take the first step in changing their lives by contacting the Redlands Adult Literacy Program.