I moved to the US from the Dominican Republic in 2010. At the time I didn’t speak, nor read English; furthermore, it was very difficult the first 3 years to understand not only the language, but the system, such as school, transportation, the changes on the weather, doctor appointments, etc.
One day when searching for my English literacy, I went to the public library and they told me about the services that the Literacy Center of West Michigan offer to people who doesn’t speak English. At first I was reticent to believe that the services has no cost. And my surprise was even bigger when I started to receive the service and encounter that this services has an excellent quality.
For one year and a half I met with my tutor, once a week for 2 hours. During that year, I was always contacted by the Literacy Center staff to follow-up with my improvements and concern, and this showed me that they were 100% committed to support adult literacy.
I joined the Literacy Center staff [as an AmeriCorps member in the Family Literacy Program] because I was receiving this wonderful services and I just wanted to spread the word to all those parents that don’t speak English, to those parents that are in the same spot I was 7 years ago.
I also want to share with the parents that we all experience the same anxiety, thinking that as an adult we will never be able to understand or speak English, that we are not good enough, especially as an adult coming to a country where you do not speak, nor understand the language. It makes you feel that you return to be a child and vulnerable of being labeled as a dumb or not good. At that stage everything is down from our point of view, not being able to express our thoughts, not being able to help and guide our kids, not being able to show strength and confidence to our family because of the lack of the English language is frustrating and in the long term will not do any good for the family.
Even though I do not speak in English to my children for personal reason, learning English helped me to immerse in the US system, and to effectively extend this knowledge to my children. Now I understand that all those printed communication that I once received from my daughter 1st grade teacher did not mean that my daughter was in trouble or that there were some issues to address. It took me time and a lot of tutor meetings to fully be immersed in the US system, but thanks to the Literacy Center, today and for the future I will keep being the mother and the wife in my family.