On Becoming Irrelevant


I have always loved to read. Books – real books; not the digital kind – have been an escape for me from as far back as I can remember. I love the feel of a book’s pages between my fingers. I love the smell of a book. I love the weight of a hardcover book on my lap (my aging eyes can’t ‘do’ paperbacks anymore, although I loved those too). Books got me through a challenging childhood and opened up new and exciting worlds for me. They have always been my ultimate escape. I spent a huge – and very happy – chunk of my youth at the local library, which was housed in a beautiful old historic Victorian house in my home town.

When I joined the workforce, I started out as an English Second Language teacher but tumbled into adult literacy just a few short years after. Sharing the gift of reading with adults who could not read or write was very rewarding: I could think of no other gift quite as precious as being able to read. I worked in adult literacy as a project coordinator for 25 years and a huge part of the work that we did was to mentor to parents the importance of instilling a love of reading in the home. When my son was born, a friend posted a note in a literacy newsletter, expressing her congratulations and making a note of the fact that my son would surely be ‘a very early reader’. I distinctly recall getting a sick feeling of panic in the pit of my stomach at those words: what a lot of pressure that was, knowing it was my responsibility to raise him ‘right’. In case you weren’t aware, they call a language your ‘mother tongue’ for a reason… children with educated mothers tend to do better in school. The father – at least in my day – had little impact on a child’s education.

Ironically, both my children would get off to a rocky start learning to read. I strongly suspect it was because they were raised in a French milieu and for the first five years – until they entered English kindergarten – I was their only consistent link to the English language. I recall crying my eyes out – at the end of my firstborn’s grade-two year – because he still couldn’t read. I was at my wits’ end: I knew I was doing everything right; I was sure of it. I had been reading to him – and his sister – since I carried them in the womb. I had filled the house with every possible medium for them to express their creativity; to practice their small-and-large motor skills. I never talked baby-talk to them and we talked constantly: I never tired of their questions. And our house was filled with books: both my children were practically on a first-name basis with Dr. Seuss, Robert Munch, Sheree Fitch, Roald Dahl, J. K. Rowling, you name it; we had it. How could my son not be able to read?

This early experience turned out to be very helpful and extremely humbling: when I delivered family literacy workshops to parents, I never presented as an ‘expert’ but always, as a fellow parent who had experienced the same issues these parents were going through. I would always share the difficulties my son had had (I am happy to report that both he and his sister are avid readers today). And invariably, before I had gotten past the introduction, as least two Moms in the audience would be in tears.

I have lost count of the number of workshops I delivered to parents and teachers over the years, but I spoke to probably hundreds of parents about early-reading tips, learning styles, study skills, homework tips, the influence of the media on our children, and the like. And for ten years, I read children’s stories on our local CBC Radio network, always followed by reading tips for parents. It was a wonderful and enriching time of my life.

I gave my very last workshop back in the early-2010s to a small group of new Moms with their very small babies in tow. By this time, I had changed career paths and was no longer working in the field of adult literacy but nonetheless, still happily volunteered whenever I was invited to. The ‘workshop’ was very informal – we were sitting on mats on the floor – and I had foregone the fancy PowerPoint to make the whole thing as laid-back as possible: just one ‘experienced’ Mom (if there is such a thing) talking to a small group of brand-new Moms as their babies crawled happily about from lap to mat. I had arrived at the point where I was stressing the importance of keeping television and computer use to a minimum: “I strongly advise you to keep the TV and the computer off during the week and have them available only for a limited amount of time on the week-ends,” I cautioned, “And start NOW. That way, by the time they start school and have homework to do, it won’t be an issue if they have never known anything else.”

There was a prolonged silence as – I assumed – the young Moms absorbed this pearl of wisdom. “But…” said one of the Moms, finally, in a small voice, “If you didn’t let your kids watch TV or use the computer, what did you DO with them?”

And just like that – I realised that I had become a dinosaur. No warning; no letter in the mail. Just that long silence and the blank look of five young mothers staring back at me as if I were speaking in a foreign language. Somehow, between changing career paths just a year prior, the I-pad had been introduced to the world and phones – once only used to make actual calls – had become an integral part of every human being’s life (the I-phone was actually introduced in 2007; the I-Pad in 2010: I looked it up).

Once a font of knowledge and useful personal experience for parents who were struggling with the same issues I had been, these mothers could not see the relevance of what I was saying. This generation had access to laptops that could go anywhere, children’s games on I-pads, cars with DVD players and phones that could be used to distract a child anytime, anywhere. I sat there, feeling hopelessly old-fashioned and outdated.

My time was up; I never gave another workshop…

Source of photo

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com


Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

22 thoughts on “On Becoming Irrelevant”

  1. Thanks your for sharing!.. technology depends on the intelligence of those using it… YOUR knowledge cannot be replaced by an Ipad, you just need to adapt using it to the changing was of learning… 🙂

    “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Kahlil Gibran

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hadn’t known that you worked in literacy…what a wonderful job to have. I am so sad that you have not given another workshop on the basis of that ridiculous woman’s comment. That made me so angry and sad for you. I can’t believe that everyone from that generation thinks like that. I’m sure it’s the same where you are, but books have taken a resurgence here and are becoming as important as digital has. I’ve written about this too, but I do see a place for technology. I think they both have a place.

    I was a teacher’s daughter. I learned to read with ease, am a great speller…yadda, yadda, yadda. My brother was semi-dyslexic (like my dad). It was difficult for him. One time he spelled his own name wrong on a birthday card to me. I never corrected him. When my own kids came along, I didn’t put any pressure on at all, but funnily enough, my two eldest were quick to read/spell, just as I was. My third wasn’t. At nineteen, I am brought to tears by the occasional piece of writing that she produces. Still can’t spell for toffee…but really, is spelling that importent? 😉

    One of my best friends in the world can’t spell. She now has a degree in English. Just sayin’…

    Please reconsider the workshops and choose your clientele wisely lol x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Someone who was very close to my dad rejected a gift of a painting he’d done because “it’s not our taste” (or some such crap). Mum told me recently that he never painted again. Just writing that makes me tear up. I wish people would think before they open their mouths! x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I am so very sorry to hear that…🙁 words do carry so much power; both good and bad. To be fair, it was a difficult time in my life. The previous federal government had cut adult literacy funding across the entire country (hence, my career change). I was one of probably HUNDREDS of people with decades of experience who simultaneously lost their jobs. And people in the regular education sector were quite disdainful toward those of us who had chosen adult education as a vocation (I suspect that is a bit of a worldwide phenomena). My self-esteem was at an all-time low, which didn’t help. It was easier to just walk away.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh, thank you so much Allane…😊 I don’t even live in the same province anymore so that part of my life pretty much stayed behind when I left. And I agree about the spelling: it doesn’t come easily to everyone so I always ignore the misspellings and am thankful when a person is writing. We saw so many people who were afraid to write for just that reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Not many of us readers left. When I ride the subway, most people are either sleeping or looking at their phone. It’s sad…

    Teaching adults to read is a noble calling…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In this world where people invest so much time in trying to distract their children rather than spend time with them, your knowledge and experience is more critical than ever, but I suppose you can’t teach what people won’t listen to. You’ll be casting your pearls before swine.
    One day when people get sick of all this technology, it will suddenly become fashionable again to sit down and read a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was recently in London and spent a ridiculous amount of time on the Underground. Because I’m an avid photographer and people watcher, I noticed that a LOT of them were reading books, actual books. Not only that but there were far fewer people on their phones. Personally, I like my Kindle because it’s just easier to carry around, but I’ve never been a massive reader. I’d say anything that encourages reading is beneficial.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Truer words were never spoken! Parents used to ask me for ‘book lists’ and my response was always the same: “What are they INTERESTED in?” Reading a magazine about motorcycles could get a kid reading WAY faster than forcing him or her to read one of the classics. I am so happy to hear you say people are reading all over the place. Makes my heart glow…xoxo


      1. Exactly. I could never get into the classics, but loved Shakespeare and later, Plath at school. I’ve always been more of a visual person. My son’s school education was good to adequate, but it’s what he got from reading factual books that astounded me. His general knowledge and understanding about how things worked or were made was something he could not have learned at school, although the television played a part too, I’m sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. My sweet, darling friend, your “experience” is more relevant than ever before. The basic, moral concepts will never change; there are simply more distractions. Moms need to know how to use the technology in a way that will benefit their children instead of using it as an electronic babysitter. There is a ton of research out now about the neurological, developmental hazards/benefits of screen time for young children. Yes, they are growing up in a different way, but they don’t have to be brain dead and over-stimulated. The roots of what you believe will never go out of fashion.
    Your writing is so incredibly helpful to me, and I’m sure, to many others. Don’t ever doubt that what you have inside you is a beautiful gift to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh bless you…I do indeed follow the research and I hope society will find a balance between the ‘tried and true’ and technology. There definitely is room for both. I do appreciate your words regarding my writing: I had been searching for a way to share my knowledge and experience for quite awhile and blogging sure has felt like a good way to do that. Helps me feel useful, that’s for sure 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  7. First of all, the way you describe your love for books exactly express my love for books too. Goodness, I am starting to think we are twins from different parents. Hahaha…Second of all, I am a parent to young kids and as much as I understand the importance and the role of technology in our lives, I still think you are spot on when you said that we need to limit technology during weekdays. It is a very relevant point that most of us wish to not dwell on because it is harder to limit technology. It is almost self-punishing for us parents to turn off the tv or iPAD. It simply requires a lot more work on our part to engage our kids without technology. You are no dinosaur, my dear. It’s a very important point you made there. So, please get back to conducting the workshops. They need to hear it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was easier when it wasn’t even an option. It is a challenge for us parents today. I succumb to technology so much too…so I wasn’t judging the other parents. But, we need to continue to try. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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