The ALTA Class and Me

The Adult Literacy Tutors Association of Trinidad and Tobago has this cool thing it does where they invite local authors to come read to their adult students who are just learning to read. They call it Reading Circle and I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest to one of them last Thursday.

The people I met were different ages–from a child, all the way up to a lady on the other side of 60 at least–different genders and even differently abled. They appeared to be from all backgrounds and economic circumstances. None of that surprised me. What surprised me was how warm, welcoming, enthusiastic and sweet they were. They were poster-children for not judging a book by its cover. It was amazing to see them shrug off the initial shyness of meeting me and have them engage with what I was reading and saying. A lot of them displayed a gift for memory and comprehension I would not have believed for the reading level they were at. Their obvious intelligence and quick sense of humour made me want to hug them all, and I was genuinely moved when their wonderful teachers confided in me that some of them have to fight disapproval from their loved ones to come to class every day.

Because I write speculative fiction, I wasn’t sure I would be their cup of tea, even though I explained to them before my reading what genre fiction was all about. But I was amazed to see that even though I read to them from a short story set in a future Caribbean culture and my novel, Lex Talionis, (which isn’t obviously set in the same culture), they related to, and enjoyed, both.

The best part was when everyone started putting in their own two cents on local mythology, stories and even near death experiences. We talked about Christopher Lee (the news of his passing had come out that day) and about reading and their fears, hopes and problems with it. I felt so great to be able to share my story about how I discovered books and reading and I think I may even have inspired some of them. By the end, I had given out all my contact cards.

They gave me a lovely card and gift, which I adore (it’s a beautiful bracelet that doubles as a hook for hanging your bag on from any table). I felt like a rock star and I hope they all felt as good going home that day as I did.

If any of the students I met that day ever read this, I just want to tell you, keep going! You can do it. It’s never too late to start reading and changing your life for the better. And if you fail, just get back up and try again. Failure is there to teach us how great success feels.

And the moment you can send me an email, drop me a line and let me know how you’re doing. I’d love to know how it all turns out!

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