Schenectady County

Literacy tutors, students recite own works aloud (with video)

Darlene Ricard paused as she read her own poem aloud — with difficulty.

Darlene Ricard paused as she read her own poem aloud — with difficulty.

“I am humorous and challenge each day,” she read. “I wonder what the day will bring.”

Most tasks, including reading and speaking, are harder for the Albany woman than they are for the average person.

“I want to be able to walk,” she read. “I pretend not to hear some people. I feel anxiety when I am rushed.”

Ricard’s literacy tutor, Dolores Stornelli of Delmar, pushed the wheelchair-bound Ricard up to the microphone during an event Tuesday evening at the College of Saint Rose that celebrated adults who are learning to read and write better.

Some are learning English for the first time, others grew up here but never learned to read, and Ricard struggles with literacy because she has cerebral palsy. All are working with volunteer tutors through Literacy New York of the Greater Capital Region.

The 61-year-old woman lives in the Center for Disability Services home in Albany.

“I have my own apartment,” she said after the ceremony. She’s been studying with a literacy tutor for at least 12 years, and Stornelli has been pushing her to use computers for the first time.

“I never used a computer,” Ricard said. “I was afraid to touch and break it.”

Now she owns her own laptop, though she confessed she hasn’t used it yet.

“She was afraid of everything when we started,” Stornelli said. Now the duo read simple books together as well as writing on the computer and by hand.

One of the things she said she hoped for in her poem, more accessibility for the disabled, she has seen happen, Ricard said afterward.

“There is more accessibility for these young kids now than there was for me.”

Ricard was one of eight students who read from their poems at an annual ceremony at the College of Saint Rose on Tuesday evening.

The writers completed lines of poetry that started with phrases like “I am,” “I want” and “I worry.”

The event combined listening, speaking, reading and writing — all the components of literacy,” Sue Hensley-Cushing, associate director of Literacy New York, pointed out.

“This is one activity where you’re doing all four.”

During the event, she coaxed learners to come up and read, and many did.

“I know sometimes it’s hard to get up and speak, but every single year somebody who has gotten up to speak said, ‘That was the best thing I ever did,’” Hensley-Cushing told the group.

Their poems shared their fears and hopes, as well as their identities.

“I am a black American woman,” wrote Pamela Jones of Albany. “I pretend to be a gospel singer,” she read, eliciting laughter from the group.

There was something universal in the poetry whether the writer was a learner or a tutor, said Mark Klein, a Literacy New York board member.

“It’s about love, family, learning — all the things we have in common,” Klein said.

Some tutors read for their students who were working or too shy to get up in front of the group, which included about 14 students, 15 volunteer tutors and a smattering of family members.

Others read their own work.

“I dream of getting my family together,” wrote a woman from the Dominican Republic.

“My baby will be born in Schenectady,” wrote a woman from China. “My baby will learn English and Chinese.”

One woman’s poem was woven with memories of her late husband.

“I say that I believe in God,” she wrote. “I dream I can have my husband back.”

Literacy New York will hold another event for Saratoga County learners and tutors tonight. The public is invited.

The free event takes place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library at 49 Henry St.

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