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Transforming Lives through Literacy: Kayla’s Story


By Becky Dyer, Chief Mission Officer, Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

Barbara Bush visits with the daughters of adult learner Kayla Trumble at a June 2011 event in Maine

Over the years we worked together, I had the privilege of attending countless family literacy events with Barbara Bush. I was always impressed and inspired by the connection she had to the families.

For her, it was all about them. She insisted on spending time with each parent and child, and loved nothing more than hearing their stories and celebrating their successes. Her love for people and her belief in the power of literacy never shone more brightly than in those small moments with parents and their children.

I clearly remember how much Mrs. Bush enjoyed visiting with Kayla and her children at this event in June 2011, and how thrilled she was to hear about how the family’s life had been transformed through literacy. And eight years later, I still remember how moved I was by what Kayla shared that day.

Kayla’s Story

Kayla and daughter Ava

My name is Kayla Trumble, and for the past three years I have attended Sanford Community Adult Education to earn my High School Diploma. While attending school, I have participated in their family literacy program, Families READ with my daughters Mia, age seven, and Ava, age two.

When I was six years old, I was diagnosed with a learning disability and placed in special education classes. I had a hard time reading and understanding assignments. I was teased by other students because I was in special education, and I did not feel that I was a part of the school. I stayed in special education classes throughout high school.

When I was in 11th grade, I became pregnant with Mia, and I dropped out of school. I worked full time at a fast food restaurant to support my daughter. By the time I became pregnant with Ava, I was laid off from my job. I was concerned about supporting my two children. I knew I needed to make changes in my life, beginning with finishing my education.

I discussed this with a Department of Health and Human Services worker, and she suggested that I look into adult education. When I registered for my classes at Sanford Community Adult Education, I was told about Families READ. I learned that I would attend parent education classes and playgroups with all of the families in the program. It was an opportunity for me to get my education, meet other parents, and receive help with parenting my children.

So, in September of 2008, I signed up to join Families READ and “restart” my education. At that time, something happened that scared me. My oldest daughter, Mia, started kindergarten, and I was told that she had ADHD and a learning disability. I knew I needed to help my daughter. I knew I wanted her to have a good education. I did not want her to be teased or feel alone at school as I did. I wanted her to finish school, go to college, and feel proud of herself and be successful. I know now the word for all of this is “advocate,” but it took the Families READ program to show me what the word means.

When Mia was little, I rarely read to her. I was not read to as a child and it never occurred to me that it was important. When I joined Families READ, I learned that I should read to my children every day. At playgroups, we had time to read to our children, and I began to read to them at home on a regular basis.

Reading to my children was difficult because my reading level was very low. I would mess up the words or say the wrong thing. I couldn’t even pronounce some of the words in the children’s books. After three years of reading classes, my skills improved and I now read at a high school level. I am more confident reading to my children, and I put excitement into the book when I read. It’s easy now and fun.

As I began to make positive changes in our lives, Mia started to change. She was excited that we had books in the house and wanted to read to me. She suddenly had a big imagination and started playing out scenes from books we had read together. She was happier.

In kindergarten and most of first grade, she struggled with her reading and started receiving special education services. I attended meetings about Mia’s education, and it was difficult for me.

I did not always understand what the school was talking about or what Mia needed. As my reading and conversation skills developed, I started to participate in the decision making process. Now, I am a part of her educational plan, I am her advocate, and I will not let her be left behind in school.

Her teacher says that she continues to improve — especially in reading. She receives one on one help for math and writing and continues to grow in these areas. She is now in second grade and spends most of her time in the regular classroom, not the special education classroom.

My second daughter, Ava, has been a part of a family literacy program since she was four months old. She attends Sanford Community Adult Education’s childcare center, First Steps. Because she has been a part of the family literacy program, she has always had books in her life, and it has made a big difference. At age two, she is confident, outgoing, and a very determined little girl. She is a leader at First Steps. She will gather the other children to play “choo choo train.” She takes books off the shelves at First Steps and at home, she tells me to “sit,” and expects to be read to right then! So, I do as I am told — we sit and read!

Families READ has changed my life in many different ways. At playgroups, I met other parents and made friends. We all attend Parent Education classes together. At these classes, we share our questions and ideas with each other and the teacher. We know we have the support to teach and care for our children. This part of the program has helped me to solve problems and handle situations in my life about my education and parenting. It has taught me to be the best parent that I can be.

Part of what made me successful and gave me the determination to not give up is that I am a student at Sanford Community Adult Education. I am at a place where teachers understand me and care for me. No one gave up on me or teased me. It is a safe place to learn. I enjoy coming to school every day; it is something that I want to do. The result of this is that I plan to graduate with my high school diploma in June. I plan to go to college and study Early Childhood Education. I can do this because I was a part of Families READ, and they will continue to offer me advice when I become a college student!

I would like to thank Sanford Community Adult Education: staff, teachers, and a very special teacher, Linda Lavertu. She always believed in me, and she told me to never give up and to keep reaching for my dream. Thank you to the First Steps Childcare Center and Maine Families for the care and education of my daughters, Mia and Ava. I was able to focus on my classes because I knew they were cared for while I was learning.

A special thanks to Pam Cote for working with my family and me for the past three years. You taught me that I am my children’s champion. I will continue to advocate for my children and believe in myself because I was a part of Families READ.

I would like to thank Michael, who has been the biggest supporter. You never let me give up and believed that I could do this.

And, I would like to give a big thank you to Mrs. Barbara Bush for supporting family literacy in Maine. It has changed our lives.

Originally published on the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy’s Medium page.

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