The process seems so simple, learn your ABCs, the phonic sounds, and then put them together. If you know cat, you should know bat and sat, right? Well not everyone has had that experience. Some people have grown to adulthood without learning how to read. I can’t imagine what it would be like, trying to navigate my life, earn a living, and maintain a household without this basic skill. Wouldn’t it be great if you could help someone get there?
I can tell you from experience that there are few accomplishments that will give you a greater sense of satisfaction and pleasure than helping someone learn to read. When I was in college, I participated in an adult literacy program in cooperation with an adult basic education center located nearby.
My first student was an African American man who was in his 50’s. He had been one of 11 children and was pulled out of school to help on the family farm. He had two grown children who were then in college. He worked in the shipyard. His wife had handled all of the official details in his life until then. He was assessed to be at a second grade reading level when we began. I quickly discovered that the standard phonics approach was not going to work. I found a vocabulary building book intended for ESL students and tried that instead.
After meeting every week for less than a year, my student was able to read short stories written by Edgar Alan Poe. He was able to take control of his life and read the bible at church services, an accomplishment that made him particularly proud. All I had done is sit with him once a week and patiently guide him through the text. This small commitment changed his life forever.
Here are some ways that you too can help make a life-changing difference for someone:
Public schools are under extreme pressure to succeed. Unfortunately, this pressure does not always translate to the right kind of help for floundering students. If you were to volunteer in an afterschool program as a tutor, or even as a mentor, your encouragement could make the difference between a child’s success and failure.
Take a look at the program schedule or bulletin board at your local community center. There may be an opportunity for you to volunteer to help a member of your community with their literacy needs. If not, you could post an offer to provide voluntary literacy tutoring.
If you go to the National Institute for Literacy website and enter your zip code, you will find official organizations that sponsor literacy-based programs for people of all ages.
Think about the people you have come in contact with recently. Do you have a neighbor who came here from another country and struggles with English? Or, maybe your child has a friend who is struggling in school. Not everyone who needs help knows where to find it. If you were to reach out and offer your help, you could be an instrumental part of your neighbor’s success story.