Marty Calanche has struggled with reading since he was a child. At first he did well in school, moving right along from first grade to fourth. Then things changed. He started to notice that his reading was bad, but he still kept moving up grades. In the eighth grade he realized that he did not want to go on to the next grade. He was not ready for it and his lack of reading and spelling skills made him feel ashamed.
“I told my teacher and my principal that I wasn’t ready to go to high school because I couldn’t spell or read,” Marty said. “Their reply was that I had to go because they needed the room for the new kids who were coming in.” Marty did continue with school, but left after the 11th grade, before he had the chance to graduate.
He had always been able to learn skills on the job, and in the 1980s he worked with the flight safety parts for the Apache helicopter. Marty was laid off in 1992. He moved to Tucson, Arizona, in hopes of finding a job, but employers told him that he would need his GED to apply for a position.
Marty became discouraged and turned to alcohol. He struggled for years. One day he woke up and no longer wanted or needed a drink. It was time to change his life. In 2010, Marty went to Literacy Connects in Tucson, Arizona. The group empowers people of all ages to develop a sustainable culture of literacy and creative expression.
“I was still embarrassed. When you can’t read you think that you’re the only one like this,” Marty said. “But the staff and tutors at Literacy Connects are so kindhearted and very encouraging. I’m excited that I will soon be able to write a letter to my mom, for the first time ever. Someday I will get the GED that I’ve been wanting since I was a kid.”
Since learning to read, Marty has been an ambassador for ProLiteracy’s continued efforts to increase access to and awareness of quality literacy services. He has participated as a student, tutor trainer, member of the advocacy committee, and board member. In 2015, Marty was invited to be on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives as the honored guest of his local representative.
“There is so much to think about now,” Marty said. “I’m seeing the future and it looks good! I am surrounded by people who care and who are helping me to improve my life and I love them all. I have always heard that it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish!”
Below is a letter written by Marty about his first experiences in his literacy quest.
My Experience Here at Literacy Volunteers of Tucson
"My participation here at L.V.T. is a discovering process. I have observed myself in embracing my relationship with my tutors. They seem to have their own way in helping me to develop my understanding.
I love their determination as well as their patience. I have also discovered that it is very helpful to participate in events. I like the wonderful people who are very generous in helping us students and staff members here at Literacy Volunteers of Tucson.
Back when I first started it was my third night here. I was leaving out the door and I had a good thought. It was “I’m so glad I came in to sign up” and as I drove down Speedway I yelled out this: “Can this be my calling to help other people who can’t read?” I was just thinking out loud. I was just that happy that it finally came out into view that I let so many people know at one time that I was illiterate.
Then, seven weeks later here I was in the Fry’s food store to buy some Powerball tickets and I asked the cashier for five of them, and as she went back to get them I noticed her name tag. I said to her, “I will be right back; I needed to grab something, so keep my tickets warm for good luck.” When I returned and paid for the tickets I said “Thanks Susan, It’s Susan right?” She said “yes” and I looked at her and said “it’s just that I’m learning to read and it’s great!” and she smiled.
Although I knew it was Susan, I just needed to tell someone else that I was learning to read. And by the way, I’ve also experienced a number of mixed emotions being here at L.V.T., like for example, embarrassment and confused, intense feelings, but I like the one we call Love. There is so much love in here for all of us! I am taking part in a new venture.
I would also like to say my younger sister is the only one out of my family at this time that knows that I am getting help so I can get my GED.
And as for the community, I’m sure they don’t know if I can read or not, but you know, and I have always known. Okay, I take it back. The community is starting to know since I’ve come in to L.V.T.
My Determination Is Important to Me!!!"