Reading about surviving: Literacy in transition houses
[also available online via telnet
at: ftp://ftp.langara.bc.ca/pub/qri/qri-pd/reading.txt ]
This report, by Kate Nonesuch and Evelyn Battell, documents a project completed in British Columbia in 1996.
January 22, 1996
Partners: Malaspina College and B.C. and Yukon Association of Transition Houses
Funders: B.C. Ministry of Skills, Training and Labour; and National Literacy Secretariat
Research and administration of the project: Key Consulting
For more information: Evelyn Battell, (604) 537-5701
This project combines two issues of particular interest: literacy and violence against women in relationships. The main objective is to make easy to read books and other material available to women who are being abused by their partners.
A parcel of books on the subject of violence against women in relationships [was] sent to transition houses all over the province [of British Columbia]. There are 16 different titles in the package, with multiple copies of some material in each package, depending on availability and price of the books, and the size of each transition house.
The books range in difficulty from very easy (10 to 15 words to a page with lots of photographs or drawings) to about a grade 10 reading level. There are novels, autobiographical stories, and non-fiction. The books come from all over Canada, from the United States and from South Africa.
2. CONNECTIONS: LITERACY AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN RELATIONSHIPS
As literacy instructors, we know that women who have trouble reading and writing are at a real disadvantage when it comes to using legal, police and social services available to them. We know that women who have trouble with reading and writing are often even more isolated than other women.
We find women who are dealing with issues of violence in every class we teach. When women in our classes write about their lives, many write about abusive relationships in their past and present; sometimes they ask us to help them find a shelter or a support group or counsellor; sometimes they want to talk or write about their experiences.
A couple of years ago we took part in a national research project of the Canadian Congress of Learning Opportunities for Women (CCLOW). Women from twelve communities across Canada looked at the question, "What happens when you do some woman-positive activities in literacy programs?" As the group worked and talked together, and as we pooled our experience as instructors and students, we began to see that violence is the most significant problem women in literacy programs face. The violent men in their lives prevent them from coming to class regularly, or at all; their fears prevent them from concentrating on school work; the emotional abuse which accompanies the physical violence leads them to think of themselves as stupid women who have no right to an education. Further, women who don't read and write very well are often poor and marginalized, which compounds the effects of violence in their lives.
So we are aware of all these things when we teach. We encourage women to talk and write about their experiences, and we offer them reading material that reflects their experience.
Reading That Reflects Our Lives
For many of us, to find our lives reflected in what we read validates our experience; sometimes when we see it in print, we say to ourselves, "AHA! I didn't make it up. It's real." Or maybe we say, "Whew! I'm not the only person in the world to go through that."
Women who don't read well usually miss that "AHA!" When they are offered something to read, they may not read it at all, because they know it is too hard, or they may try to read it, but have so much difficulty that they miss the significance of it. However, when they come across easy-to-read material that reflects their lives, their "AHA!" comes out in full voice.
Something else happens when women in our classes find material that they can read: they are empowered by the experience of reading. Women who have been told that they were stupid, that they would be unable to look after themselves, that they would never be able to go back to school, find that they can in fact read these easy books. Immediately they feel less stupid; they begin to separate themselves in however small a way from the insults that have been hurled at them, and they begin to see themselves as learners.
Why Bother With Books?
Some people may say, "Why bother with books for women who can hardly read? Just tell them what they need to know." Regular readers find two advantages of print over speech. First, we can read it again and again. If it is factual stuff that we are trying to remember, we can go back to it as many times as necessary. If it is inspirational, or comforting, we can let it work its magic as often as we need it. Secondly, sometimes we hear something new at a time when we are not able to take it in, because we are tired or under stress. If the new information is also in print, we can save it for later, for a time when we are ready to give it our attention. Women who are not good readers find the same advantages in printed material that is written at their reading level.
We know that residents of transition houses spend time and energy thinking about the question of surviving outside the relationship they have been in. It is in times of crisis that we take steps to change. We hope some women who read these books may decide to join a literacy program as part of her plan for the future.
Canadian Council on Social Development. Voices of Aboriginal Women: Aboriginal Women Speak out About Violence. 1991. Canadian Council on Social Development, 441 Maclaren St. 4th floor, Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2H3 phone 613 236 5868
ISBN 0 88810 394 8
28 pages, average 335 words per page
HE HIT ME
Cawley, Joan and Ruth Diamond. He Hit Me. 1992. Reading Council for Literacy Advance in Montreal (RECLAIM), 3449 University St., Montreal, Quebec, H3A 2A8 [information about RECLAIM publications]
phone 514 849 3679, fax 514 849 3670
ISBN 1 895539 13 7
39 pages, average 180 words per page, 5 part or full page illustrations
Christian, Mary Blount. Just Once. New Readers Press, Laubach Literacy of Canada, 70 Crown Street, Suite 225, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L 2X6 phone 506 634 1980, fax 506 634 0944
ISBN 0 88336 208 2
61 pages, average 144 words per page, 8 part or full page illustrations
SOMETHING IS WRONG AT MY HOUSE: A BOOK ABOUT PARENT'S FIGHTING
Davis, Diane. Something is Wrong at My House: A Book about Parent's Fighting. 1984. Parenting Press, Inc., P.O. Box 75267, Seattle, Washington, 98125 phone 1 (800) 992 6657
ISBN 0 943990 10 6
32 pages, half the pages have an average of 7 words and a full page illustration. The opposite pages have 40 to 80 words telling the same part of the story in more detail. The book is written for children of different reading abilities.
MY NAME IS ROSE
Doiron, Rose. My Name is Rose. 1987. East End Literacy Press, 265 Gerrard St. East, Toronto, Ontario, M5A 2G3 phone 416 968 6989
ISBN 0 920013 07 467 pages, average 26 words per page, 45 part or full page photographs
THERE AND BACK: SHARING OUR STORIES
Earle, D. and D. Foreman, et al. There and Back: Sharing Our Stories. 1991. Lawrence Heights Community Health Centre Press, 12 Flemington Road., Toronto, Ontario, M6A 2N4 : phone (416) 787 1661
ISBN 1 895476 00 3
89 pages, average 144 words per page, 25 part or full page drawings
COMING OUT OF MY SHELL
Green, Ann K. Coming Out of My Shell. 1990. Distributed by Educational Planning and Design, 18 Leslie Street, St. John's, Newfoundland, A1E 2V6 : phone (709) 753 8815
ISBN 0 96948 700 2
33 pages, average 180 words per page
This book is out of print; reprint date is unknown
THE COLLECTOR OF TREASURES
Head, Bessie. The Collector of Treasures. 1995. ViVa Books, Johannesburg, South Africa. Distributed by Avanti Books, 8 Parsons Green, Boulton Road, Stevenage, SG1 4QG, England
ISBN 1 874932 16 6
64 pages, average 15 words per page, 32 part or full page illustrations
PAT KING'S FAMILY
McFall, Karen. Pat King's Family. 1977. New Reader's Press, Laubach Literacy of Canada, 70 Crown Street, Suite 225, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L 2X6 phone 506 634 1980, fax 506 634 0944
ISBN 0 88336 328 3
63 pages, average 88 words per page, 30 part or full page illustrations
I TOLD MYSELF I AM GOING TO LEARN
Ndaba, Elizabeth. I Told Myself I Am Going to Learn. 1990. English Literacy Project. Distributed by Avanti Books, 8 Parsons Green, Boulton Road, Stevenage, SG1 4QG, England
55 pages, average 16 words per page, 26 full page photographs
IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW!
Nonesuch, Kate and Evelyn Battell. (eds.) If You Could See Me Now! 1995. Key Consulting, 379 Woodland Drive, Salt Spring Island, B.C. V8K 1J6
phone and fax 604 537 5701
30 pages, average 176 words per page
MOMMY AND DADDY ARE FIGHTING
Paris, Susan. Mommy and Daddy are Fighting. 1986. Seal Press, 3131 Western Ave. Suite 410, Seattle, Washington, 98121
ISBN 0 931188 33 4
18 pages, from 18 to 80 words per page, 15 full page drawings. This is a children's book with 2 pages of discussion guide for adults.
Ribaudo, Linda and Darlyne Walker. Domestic Violence. 1994. New Readers Press, Laubach Literacy of Canada, 70 Crown Street, Suite 225, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L 2X6
phone 506 634 1980, fax 506 634 0944
ISBN 1 56420 061 2
32 pages, average 49 words per page, 4 pages of activities, 24 part or full page illustrations
YOU DESERVE TO BE SAFE
Renooy, Lorna. You Deserve to be Safe. 1995. Disabled Women's Network (DAWN) Ontario, 180 Dundas Street West, Suite 210, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1Z8
phone 416 598 2488, fax 416 598 2433
11 pages in the main text, average 180 words per page, 7 pages of resources
I SEE A PART OF MYSELF: VOICES FROM THE COMMUNITY
Roa, Edami and Basemah Jaber and Ivan Ramirez. I See A Part of Myself: Voices from the Community. The Open Book, 503 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215
phone 718 965 9473, fax 718 965 6687
99 pages, average 312 words per page
WESTCOAST READER SPECIAL ISSUE ON WIFE ABUSE
Westcoast Reader Special Issue on Wife Abuse. March 1995. The Westcoast Reader, Capilano College, 2055 Purcell Way, North Vancouver, B. C., V7J 3H5
phone 604 984 1756, fax 604 984 1718
4 tabloid pages laid out in 9 sections; every section includes illustrations or photographs. There are equivalent student newspapers in many provinces in Canada.
4. OTHER BOOKS OF INTEREST
Mary Hutchinson in conjunction with the Doris Women's Refuge. Belles Letters: Voices from Homes of Violence. 1990. Available from Homefront, c/o 10 Quinn St., O'Connor, ACT 2602, Australia.
ISBN 0 7316 8998 4
34 pages long containing 12 photographs and drawings
This is a collection of poems, narratives and essays by women writing
from personal experience. It is out of print. A second book, Hells Belles
Letters, (ISBN 0 646 005138) is available but the reading level is
higher. This book has blank pages for writing on.
Papp, Aruna. The Seven of Us Survived: Wife Abuse in the South Asian Community. 1995. Multicultural Community Development and Training, 10 Euclid Ave., Scarborough, Ontario, M1C 1J6 phone 416 281 6104, fax 416 284 1946
121 pages averaging 420 words per page
This book chronicles 7 South Asian women's struggles to free themselves
from abuse while living in Canada.
St. Christopher House Domestic Violence Program. We Are Not Born to Suffer: Six Portuguese Women Tell Their Stories. 1991. St. Christopher Neighbourhood House, 53 Argyle Street, Toronto, Ontario M6J 1N8. phone 416 533 8285
ISBN 0 969 4915 0 6
This book contains personal stories in both English and Portuguese describing 6 women surviving domestic violence. The English section has 29 pages of story averaging 200 words per page and 5 small line drawings. The book is out of print but may be reprinted in 1996.
READING ABOUT SURVIVING: LITERACY IN TRANSITION HOUSES
this proposal had been online at http://www.aett.gov.bc.ca/literacy/95-96prj.htm#support , but is no longer there. The text below was downloaded from that site.
Contact: Evelyn Battell
Location of Project: Province-wide
Collaborating Partners: Malaspina University-College, B. C. and Yukon Society of Transition Houses
Malaspina University-College and the British Columbia and Yukon Society for Transition Houses will purchase a set of books about spousal assault. The set will contain fiction and non-fiction at a beginning reading level. The project coordinator will promote meetings of transition house workers and literacy programs to encourage networking and mutual referrals. The set of books will be placed in the 56 Transition Houses in B. C. and at Literacy B. C.
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