FAIRFIELD — A sea of proud, happy faces filled the Solano County Events Center on Saturday as adult students from the Solano County Library Literacy program were honored for their hard work in the Writers to Writers program.
As part of the literacy program, participants were asked to write letters to authors whose books touched them in some personal way. Several of the students read “The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child” by Francisco Jimenez, and “Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.” This was not an easy task for these students because when they started this program they could neither read nor write.
For the Writers to Writers program, “Students committed to a six-month program, working with volunteers to bring them to this point,” said Joann Wright, head of the Adult Literacy Solano County Library program.
“Two times a week volunteers worked with their students in small groups and individually,” Wright said. “Most adults can’t handle being in a large work group to learn to read, it is just not the type of curriculum that works for them. So we work with them one-on-one and in small groups. It seems to work well.”
“The Writers to Writers program challenges them to write a letter to an author and tell them how their book changed their lives,” Wright said.
For Francisco Mendoza it was a nerve-wracking moment to read aloud his letter to Francisco Jimenez, an author with a similar first name and background. Mendoza spoke on the similarities he had to the main character in “The Circuit,” and how he, too, didn’t receive gifts for Christmas or birthdays, but those days were not about presents.
“They were about having your family around you. That is what true happiness means. Family,” Mendoza said.
Out of 30 students who submitted letters for the program, four received recognition, but only three read their carefully crafted words in front of the audience of about 200 people. The top four were Mendoza, Maribel Ortega, Idalia Radillo and Eufrosina Ruiz.
Ortega, a native of Mexico, began the program two years ago with the goal of mastering reading, writing and speaking English.
Today she spoke clearly on how “The Circuit” cut close to home. Her family also were manual laborers.
“It was a hard life,” she said.
She said she couldn’t have done this without the help of her tutor, who took the time to patiently explain the ins and outs of the English language to her.
Ortega has become a tutor and is helping others to achieve their goals and mastering literacy.
“I plan to get my G.E.D. Maybe I will work up to going to college some day,” Ortega said.
The program works because volunteers from all over Solano County come together to help adults who, for whatever reason, never learned to read and write.
“We are always in need of volunteers, we have a huge waiting list of people who want to learn to read. But we just don’t have enough people,” Wright said.
“One of the best things about this program is that we are changing lives. When a parent learns to read, they can teach their children, they can get a diploma and maybe get a better job. Literacy truly opens doors, because when you can’t communicate, how can you be a part of the community?” Wright said.
Reach Susan Hiland at 427-6981 or firstname.lastname@example.org.