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Campus Reading Program

A guide designed for students and faculty participating in SJSU's Common Reader program.

Campus Reading Program

Rob Shindler

Rob and his wife, Andi, have twins, Isabella and Oliver, and their younger brother, future NFL star Sage. Rob is the founder of Abogados America, a small law firm in Chicago that specializes in representing the Hispanic community, which faces an array of legal injustices. “My Spanish-speaking clients are a lot like adults fighting illiteracy. Society tends to judge both before all the evidence is in.” Rob’s hope is that Hot Dogs & Hamburgers will bring an awareness of adult low literacy and slow that judging process down.

Review by Jennifer Decker, a Liebster Award winner and a Coordinator of English Language Learner (ELL) and Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs. Blog: Jennifer Decker

Summary in 30 Seconds

Rob Shindler is faced with a challenge:  his son Oliver has a learning disability and can’t read despite loads of support from teachers, tutors, and family members.  Hiding behind his own fear and busy schedule, Shindler ignores his son’s struggles until one day when cutting comments force him to face the reality of the pain and obstacles experienced by Oliver daily because of illiteracy.  Realizing his failure as a parent, Shindler decides that the only way he can learn to teach his son how to read is by teaching others how to read first, thus beginning his volunteer career as an adult literacy tutor with Literacy Chicago.  The book shares Shindler’s experiences and insights gained from partnering with adults and then his son to help them achieve the life-changing goal of becoming literate.  Hot Dogs & Hamburgers is the tale of Shindler’s personal journey, but also a testament to the incredible potential and confidence unlocked for individuals when they breakthrough and read.

My Thoughts

As coordinator of English Language Learner (ELL) and Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs, reading this book was like encountering permutations of my own dear clients and students.  Its messages about the value of every individual (literate or not) and the value of having someone who doesn’t give up on you resonated with the innermost core of my being.  I cheered at the moments when the students finally figured out vowel sounds, boosting their confidence and comfort with reading.  I laughed when I read about the challenges and delights both clients and teachers faced as more students joined the class and personalities were put to the test.  I was touched by the tangible results of Shindler’s efforts, first teaching adults, then his son, then watching both grow and pass on this gift as a result of their experiences.

As someone who is deeply touched by clear and elegant prose and moved by the beauty of the written word, I can’t imagine my life without reading, and that is just reading for pleasure.  That doesn’t even begin to encompass the other reading I rely on everyday–on signs on the street, in the newspaper, on job applications, menus, and bank slips.  Being able to read shapes and sustains me.  The unfortunate reality in our societies is that, for many, reading is viewed as an impossible dream.  Hot Dogs & Hamburgers is a beautifully written and touching memoir about one man’s commitment to change this unfortunate reality and make reading possible for illiterate individuals both young and old.  It does a wonderful job shedding light on this affliction that affects individuals and communities throughout society while also upholding the dignity of the brave individuals who step up to make this important change in their lives.

I know a bunch of you love to read (otherwise really, I don’t think you would be reading Book Scribbles of all things).  If this review intrigues you at all, I really encourage you to read this book for the importance of the message (not to mention it’s a really quick read).  If reading this review or the book also makes you interested in engaging with others to help them develop a comfort and love of reading, visit the National Literacy Directory (U.S.).  If you’re reading this and you don’t live in the U.S., Google search “adult literacy” and the name of your community and I’m sure you’ll find something to get you on the right track (and if you don’t I will be happy to help you if you comment on this post).  You too can join a dedicated corps of tutors helping to transform lives through reading in your community.  It might be one of the most challenging and rewarding things you ever do!

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