Learning to read at the age of 52?

Think it can't be done?

Thanks to you, Josefina Mendoza proves it can.

Josefina Mendoza was 52 years old and couldn’t read.  Because she spent most of her childhood in Mexico working on the family farm, she never learned how to read.  She never learned to hold a pencil.  And she never held a crayon to draw.

Because you believe in the power of education and support our programs, Josefina (left) was able to learn to read with one-on-one support from her teacher, Yasi.

At the age of 41, Josefina and her family came to the United States.  Without a community to support her, and because she didn’t speak English, she spent most of her time at home, taking care of her husband and sons.  But, because of your support, Josefina was able to make a change. 

Three years ago, she learned about the programs at Adelante Mujeres. She started taking gardening classes through our Sustainable Agriculture Program, and then became a childcare volunteer. 

But Josefina wanted to read.  She knew that reading would open up a whole new world for her. She wanted to keep volunteering with children, be able to read to them, and teach them letters and sounds.  Josefina knew that Adelante had an education program for women like her, but she was afraid to enroll. She worried that she would be far behind the other students and would require extra help.

On her own, Josefina tried to review the few letters and sounds that she knew.  “It was so hard,” Josefina says.  “I cried every day, sitting at the table alone, trying to practice each letter and sound.”

She prayed that if she tried our Adult Education classes, there would be someone who could work with her on reading, one on one.

Because of your support, her prayer was answered. When Josefina enrolled, our Adult Education Coordinator, Yasi Lemus-Isla, began giving her the individual attention she needed.  At first, Josefina was scared and embarrassed. But Yasi’s generous spirit and patient approach encouraged her.

“Josefina was ready, and she really wanted to learn,” says Yasi.  Josefina quickly learned the basic letters and sounds. Later, the pace slowed for more complicated combinations. Josefina reviewed every night at home, and continued to improve, little by little.

After three months of study, Josefina and Yasi really saw learning take hold when Josefina was able to read aloud the four page poem Los zapaticos de rosa (The Little Pink Shoes).

“When she read the poem, we both cried,” says Yasi.  They cried not only because Josefina was able to read the whole poem, but also because she was visibly moved by its beautiful message of generosity. Josefina had just experienced reading literature for the first time.

Learning to read has opened other doors for Josefina as well.   She can now read and send text messages, and she can read subtitles of movies on television. 

Josefina is proud of her accomplishments. And with her new teachers, friends and classmates, she no longer feels like she is here all alone. “My husband says, ‘it’s like you are in Mexico again, you have so many friends.’”

Josefina looks forward to learning to write, which presents its own challenges because her hand is not accustomed to holding a pencil.  She would also love to learn English. With your continued support, Josefina will continue her classes and pursue these goals.