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Literacy brings immigrants closer to full participation in life

October 20, 2009 | 10:28 am
Julia rodriguez

Native Spanish speakers break the code of the written word with help from an L.A. adult-education center, writes Hector Tobar.

In her one-bedroom apartment in the Pico-Union district, garment worker Julia Rodriguez lives surrounded by young readers.

Her oldest child, 10-year-old Santos, is giving Harry Potter a try. Nine-year-old Wendy devours girl-detective stories. Even her youngest, 6-year-old Marlyn, zips through early reader books.

"Tim spins," Marlyn reads from her book. "Tim spins his hat."

Julia listens to her daughter and beams. Until recently, the 34-year-old mother of three couldn't read the simplest sentence in any language. Having been illiterate most of her life, she feels deep, bittersweet emotions watching her children master reading.

Earlier this year, in the classrooms of the nonprofit Centro Latino for Literacy, Julia finally started learning to read and write herself.

Read the rest of Tobar's column here.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Image: Julia Rodriguez, 34, says her children, Santos, left, Marlyn and Wendy, inspired her to learn to read. "Before, there was no sun for me. Now I feel" more awake, Julia says. She recently bought her first book. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)