Ruben Dozal Jr., a Brawley, California native, is one of eight children. He has worked hard and struggled throughout his entire life—he has had little education and no high school diploma. However, even though life has had its ups and downs for Ruben, he always tried to make the best out of each and every situation brought to him.
“I had no idea what literacy meant and did not care because I knew how to spell my name and knew how much I was getting paid an hour,” he wrote in his book, What About Literacy. “To tell you the truth, that was all that mattered until I was blessed with grandchildren.”
Ruben would pretend to read to his grandchildren from storybooks until one day his granddaughter pointed out, “Grandpa, that's not what it says here.” Ruben was determined to learn how to read and write so he could finally really read to his grandkids.
When she realized he had a flair for words, in spite of not being able to read, his granddaughter’s daycare teacher suggested that he attend the local adult reading program. Ruben then enrolled in Vision Literacy and started his very challenging but successful journey. Page Jones-Goulding, a former tutor at Vision Literacy, helped him improve his reading and writing skills. In one of his poems, “Embarrassment,” Ruben shares his shame of learning to read and write as an older adult. He recalls how insecure he felt the first time his reading tutor expected him to read aloud on his own.
“You ask me about literacy, what can I say that has not been said before,” he wrote in his poem. “What can I tell you from a man who has worked the fields of mud, dirt, and heat? What can I tell you when you are asked to read out loud and every other word is read or pronounced wrong? The giggles and laughter you can hear. Pick up your head to see who is laughing at you, you cannot help but feel the shame and the sounds are eating at your heart. What can I tell you about literacy, you people can get a newspaper and read it like it was nothing? Then you ask me what do you think about this story and my reply is okay, not having a clue about what you are talking about.”
Today, Ruben is 80 and is excited about attending computer literacy classes soon. His thirst for knowledge is inspiring at Vision Literacy and it reinforces that “age is indeed just a number.”
Ruben is a published poet and author. His book, My Dad's Thoughts: Bits and Pieces of Life, is available from Rosedog Books at rosedogbookstore.com.