Since January I've been teaching this wonderful woman of 34 how to read. She was in school until...preschool. She was forced to drop out of school when her mother fell ill. In order to provide for the family she had to find work. Now she is providing for not only herself but her husband and three children. So, she never learned how to read. This woman was hired by my mission in the past few years and my boss soon discovered her inability to read. What we didn't know is that her reading level really was...completely illiterate. She didn't even know the letters of the alphabet! The funny thing about living in Kampala is that you really do need to know a lot of languages- your tribal language(s), Luganda, and English. She already knew English well, so that was no problem.
As a Christmas present last year, my boss suggested that I invite Susan to learn how to read. She jumped at the opportunity and since then so much has happened. We meet once a week after she is done working at my apartment. She is really shy about her reading, so if anyone is ever around we sneak into my room and study together. You should have seen her light up at being able to read labels on food containers!
Last week I gave her a test. I wanted her to feel really motivated. At times it was hard to get her to study due to her frustration at feeling she would never learn. So, I put together a list of the words we've worked on in the past 11 months and quizzed her. In my mind, I had decided that if she got 75% of the words correct I would reward her with a bag of sugar (it may seem silly to Americans, but Africans LOVE sugar in their tea). And guess what? She totally exceeded my expectations! She got 80% right! I was SO excited for her! To think that in less than a year she's gone from not knowing her letters to taking interest in the signs that she sees all around her! She's really trying to put an effort into reading! Granted, we've still got a long way to go and are working on vowel sounds right now, but it is so exciting to see the joy in her eyes when she finishes a little book.
She's learning to read while I'm learning more about education here and adult education. The ability to read is so freeing and something that every eye reading this can easily take for granted. Reading can put dreams in our hearts and minds and bring us to new worlds! Just one more thing to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day in the states!