"As a boy I worked on our family farm, learning by doing. I went to a country school that had eight classes in a one-room school house. I couldn't catch on fast enough with books. My parents couldn't help much. Education wasn't so important to them, not as much as the farm. That farm was our livelihood. I repeated third grade. Fifth grade was in the town school; I repeated that grade as well. I was a slow learner. One teacher said to me, 'I'm ashamed we have the same last name.' I have never forgotten that. I started skipping school during the eighth grade. They called other parents but not mine. When my dad found out he asked me if I was staying or quitting school. I quit. I was interested in reading during the school year. I loved writing but saw no point in writing with my poor skills. I liked Geography, English and Math. The math teacher sent me out of class, calling me 'dumb.' Once I quit school I stopped reading, except maybe comics. I couldn't read that well anyway. I never wrote anything. I figured that there's no sense writing if you can't spell words correctly."
"Then the farm went under. I worked a series of outside jobs. The better jobs needed some reading. I worked on the railroad for thirteen years and was a foreman for five years. I tried not to let anyone know I was illiterate. I carried a dictionary but was often in a bind, unable to spell. If I knew partial spelling I guessed the rest and tried to look up the word. To write work reports, I kept a copy of all previous reports and took words out of those. I went through old files. These were my survival techniques. To fill out job applications, I wrote out information on the back of business cards and carried those with me. I had it down where I knew what they were asking for. You learn to invent ways. I worked in factories but didn't like factory work. In the summers I looked for outdoor work. I left my foreman position in 1992."
"I wanted to try writing for a long time but was too embarrassed. My wife and kids encouraged me to join the (adult literacy) program. It took a lot of courage to approach those people. Here in the class when you first asked me to write in the journal, I was scared. I hadn't written much outside of a letter. Even when I was in the war in Vietnam, I never wrote home. Mom and I communicated through tapes. I would record what I wanted to say and mail it home. With homework and these journals, my wife helped some with spelling. No, I did not believe you when you told me I had nice handwriting and that I was a good writer. I didn't know what to believe after being told all those years that I was no good. I remember that now I have written journals on a vacation we took years ago, my bee-house, the Indian motorcycle, and my trip to the Bahamas. The experience is a little different now. Before I would write a letter, correct it, and make a copy. Now I can start and use the same piece of paper to finish it."
"Just by doing the words in the books we've read, I can figure out more like brass has an 'r' in it and copper has 'er.' Now I have a teacher, a book, and homework. I have more confidence on the second book. I love fixing meals and like reading recipes and anything on motorcycles. I try to read magazines and articles in the Midweek on Wednesday nights."
"The experience with the journals? Interesting, I like it. It makes me feel like a better person. I feel I have enough confidence to sit down and write, makes me feel good. I ran into three people over the last several months who can't read. I encouraged them to sign up for this program but they haven't yet. About the connection between reading and writing, when I'm writing something now I can see the word. I couldn't before. Reading gives me the ability to put the word on the paper when I write. I still prefer reading to writing. No, I am not really motivated to read more as I write more, but writing helps me explore words. I don't have to go and ask someone to write a grocery list for me now. It's fun creating a grocery list and put it on paper."
"The journal was something I hadn't done before. I don't get too excited about too much, but like I said, for me it's interesting. Being adults, you have to want to learn, not like a kid. As you get older you have to want it or it won't get done. With reading and writing, it changes your vocab, you talk more intelligent. Vocab expands even in your speech I think. My buddy went through this program and he talks more intelligent now, than choosing and searching for words."