Buy a book, and give the gift of reading

A group of Vision Literacy students work to improve their

In his poetry, Vision Literacy student Ruben Dozal Jr. tells
about the shame people often feel when trying to find the courage
to learn to read and write at a more advanced age. He describes how
he walked back and forth outside the door of the tutoring program
on Martin Street in Gilroy.
“To the shock of my humble self I thank you for the opportunity of reading some of my work to so many. To see so many people giving me, a farm worker by trade, a standing ovation by so many beautiful people has really put me in a state of shock. I thank you for opening the door of knowledge to me and to my beautiful tutor who has had her hands full and patience with me. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Always, your student Ruben.” – From “To The Reading Program,” by Ruben Dozal Jr. in the book, “My Dad’s Thoughts; Bits and Pieces of Life”

In his poetry, Vision Literacy student Ruben Dozal Jr. tells about the shame people often feel when trying to find the courage to learn to read and write at a more advanced age. He describes how he walked back and forth outside the door of the tutoring program on Martin Street in Gilroy. He kept trying to go in, but it took numerous attempts before he finally made it through the door.

Many types of people walk through Vision Literacy’s doors in downtown Gilroy, seeking help from the nonprofit, which matches volunteer reading tutors with people who are working to improve their reading skills.

Some seek to fill gaps in their basic reading and writing skills, others are native Spanish speakers who never learned to read and write in their native language. Some are there to learn a second language.

Dressed in a gray dress shirt, dark gray slacks and jacket, a black felt hat decorated with pins commemorating a reading he gave at the National Latino Book Fair, his shoes well worn but clean and polished, and his salt and pepper moustache giving him a distinguished look, 60-year-old Dozal talked of his passion for getting his thoughts down on paper.

“I’ve been a laborer all my life, and I realized I had nothing to give my kids,” he said. “I had nothing to leave to them except my broken hands.”

He recalled how insecure he felt the first time his reading tutor expected him to read aloud on his own. His granddaughter’s daycare teacher had first suggested that he attend the adult reading program when she realized he had a flair for words, in spite of being illiterate. It was a turning point.

“It has really opened my eyes to the wonder of words,” he said.

Now the former truck driver and field worker is an award-winning published poet and public speaker. This weekend he is giving a reading at a college in southern California.

“The heart of this program is about second chances,” said Claudia Salewske, a longtime volunteer tutor with Vision Literacy.

She pointed out that addressing literacy is about more than just benefiting the individual – it benefits all of society as well.

“How frustrating everyday life would be without literacy – it’s not hard to see how it could lead to resentment and anger that manifest themselves in criminal acts and other negative behaviors,” Salewske said. “Vision Literacy can open so many doors. Those in need of this help need only to knock, come on in, and partner with the volunteers who are anxious to work with them toward a whole new perspective on the world through their mastery of reading and writing.”

Originally called “The Reading Program,” Vision Literacy is a service of Santa Clara County Library. The program will celebrate its 25th year in 2010.

“In Gilroy, the program was housed first in the meeting room of the Gilroy Library,” community librarian Lani Yoshimura said. “Then later it was moved to a site at 42 Martin St. In 2012, the Gilroy Vision Literacy office will move into the new library.”

“If you want to give someone the ability to read, please come to Barnes & Noble for our third annual BookFair this weekend,” said Louise Shields, who recently left her position as associate manager for Vision Literacy in South County, due to budget cuts and loss of funding.

“I am still so dedicated to Vision Literacy,” she said. “It’s a great program that our community needs so much. I just love it.”

Elvia Hernandez, a tutor with Vision Literacy, asked for help in spreading the word about the book fair this weekend:

“Please come shop,” she said.

If you mention Vision Literacy, a percentage of all sales will be donated to help keep the program going.

For more information on the nonprofit, visit www.visionliteracy.org.

***

Book Fair to benefit Vision Literacy

When: Today, Saturday and Sunday

Where: Barnes & Noble, 6825 Camino Arroyo

Special events: Storytelling with volunteers and students from Eliot Elementary School from 12 to 2 p.m. Saturday; Dramatic reading by Gilroy Children’s Program Librarian Linda Glawatz from 1 to 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Details: www.visionliteracy.org

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