Through Adult Literacy, Connecticut Volunteer Extends Family
Mother of three involves children in adult literacy tutoring
Originally from Syracuse, Margaret (Peggy) Salsbury has had adult literacy on her radar screen since she was a child. “I’ve known Auntie Ruth [Ruth Colvin, co-founder of ProLiteracy] since I was a baby and with her involvement in my life, I’ve always been aware of the importance of adult literacy and volunteerism,” says Salsbury.
Now living in Middlebury, Conn., Salsbury is a young mom, busy juggling the needs and wants of three children under the age of five. Finding time to volunteer proved challenging—until January 2009 when she happened to see a want ad in the local newspaper for tutors at the public library.
“I turned to my husband and said, ‘I want to do this,’” Salsbury says. “He really did not have a choice—and he was incredibly supportive.” Salsbury—with her second son Steven who was then 4 months old—took to strapping the baby in a carrier and including him in the Saturday tutoring sessions with Literacy Volunteers of Waterbury.
“I was matched with an English-as-a-second-language student, Brunilda Espinal, who is from the Dominican Republic,” says Salsbury. “Brunilda’s daughter started college and became a citizen, so Brunilda decided it was time for her to learn English and become a citizen as well. We’ve been working together for a year and now are really part of each other’s families. We exchange Christmas gifts; we’ve been to BBQs at each other’s houses.”
In the last year, Salsbury gave birth to another child, her daughter Katherine. Espinal attended the baptism and has a special relationship with Katherine. “Brunilda speaks to her in Spanish and calls her ‘Princesa de Papi’ [Daddy’s girl]. We incorporate Katherine in our lessons—pointing out body parts or giving her compliments. And because Brunilda is also a mom, when the baby cries or needs to have her diaper changed, it’s no big deal.”
Salsbury has high hopes for her student and for her own continued involvement in adult literacy tutoring. “My student’s goal is citizenship, and I want to do all I can to get her there. She is a high beginner so it may take some time. But I’m not going anywhere. I love tutoring and I want to see where it goes. As long as it fits in between hockey and soccer and whatever else comes along as a mother to three kids, I want to keep doing it. It’s been an eye-opening experience, and it’s been great for my kids.”
Peggy Salsbury (right) with her daughter Katherine, son Stephen, and adult literacy student
Brunilda Espinal at the Literacy Volunteers of Waterbury's holiday party.