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12/5/2011

A Grandson's Questions Spark a Desire to Read

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A Grandson’s Questions Spark a Desire to Read

The famous French writer Victor Hugo once wrote that “there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson.” Though he was born in a different country during a different time period, Hugo must surely have been talking about Emanuel Anderson.

Anderson is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, born in 1937. Married to his current wife for 46 years, he is the proud father of three daughters, and he worked his whole life to give his daughters an education and a solid footing in life. All the while, Anderson couldn’t read.

“I worked hauling groceries and then I sold ice and from there I went to Pepsi-Cola where I worked on the truck,” recalls Anderson. Eventually, he moved inside the warehouse and drove a forklift; any time there was a promotion or new job that required an application, Anderson wouldn’t let the opportunity pass him by. Although he could not read the applications, he would take the applications home and seek help from his family.

He knew he needed help. He knew getting an education and learning to read was important. He even went so far, in 2003, as to seek out help from the South Baltimore Learning Center (SBLC). At that time, he started working with a volunteer tutor, Steve Hobbs. Hobbs, it turned out, grew up not far from Anderson and is also roughly the same age. The two men bonded.

Anderson had some important motivation: his grandson Kaisdan. During the 2003 holiday season, Kaisdan asked Anderson to read him a book. Anderson asked Hobbs for help and the men selected “The Sweetest of Angels.”

“I read it to my grandson,” Anderson says. “I read the whole book to my grandson.

But Anderson took a break from SBLC. He tried several other literacy programs and worked with his family. It wasn’t until eight years later, when Kaisdan turned 11 years old, that Anderson really recommitted himself to learning how to read.

“My grandson started asking questions and I realized I needed to go back to school to answer his questions,” he says. “Kaisdan was reading a lot, and I knew I was going to have to learn to read.”

He returned to the South Baltimore Learning Center in 2011 and asked specifically for Hobbs.

“Coincidentally, Steve had just called to say he was ready to be re-matched with a new adult learner,” says Meg Bullamore, volunteer and outreach coordinator at the center. “So we were able to connect these two old friends immediately. They were talking to one another again within days. It was really special timing.”

Since their reunion, the two have made great progress. Anderson has completed all level one books and is now working on level three. Hobbs taught him how to read and write the alphabet, and Anderson credits this simple accomplishment with changing his life.

“Now when I talk to my family, they ask me to read certain words or sentences to them,” he says. “It takes me a while but I read to them. And it’s made me the happiest person in the world.”

Learning to read has sparked a new drive in Anderson. Because he is so motivated, he hopes to transfer into a classroom environment this winter while continuing his work one-on-one with Hobbs to elevate his education. And one day, he hopes to earn his Maryland State high school diploma. Hobbs, his biggest champion, has no doubt he’ll succeed.

“Emanuel continues to strive tirelessly to reach his goals,” says Hobbs. “He’s ready for the challenge to try to improve himself. He’s more than happy to do what it takes. There is no failing for Emanuel; he just keeps going.”

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