Literacy 101 – Are You Missing Out? by Sheila Pierson


Years ago I had the opportunity to help teach an adult to read. The gentleman was around 40 years old and could barely write his own name. He couldn’t read anything, yet worked a full time job and was a single parent to two children. He defied the odds. Though he was 40, he never gave up on wanting to learn to read.

I bring this up because those of us who love the written word could scarcely imagine going a day without reading something. Yet, this man had lived 40 years and read nothing. I can’t imagine how different my life would be without being able to read, especially the little things I take for granted all the time.

Can you imagine being surrounded by a world of words and not know what they say? It would be akin to being in a foreign land and never knowing the names of street signs, store names, restaurant menus, and how to find anything without asking someone else. That is, indeed, how this gentleman had gotten through life. He always asked a family member or trusted friend for help when it came to reading anything, including medication directions for himself and his children, menus, directions to get anywhere. He used landmarks instead of the names of places to find his way.

The saddest thing to me was that he never read his children a bedtime story, EVER. He could tell them stories he knew but he couldn’t read them a book or help them with their homework. He lacked confidence and, to a certain degree, many social skills.

Sadly, he isn’t unique, which brings me to a suggestion. If you are a writer, and you knew there were hundreds of thousands of potential readers for your books if they could only read, what would you be willing to do?

Oh, did I hear a collective groan? Yes, I am going to put a challenge out there to all you wordsmiths – teach one adult to read in your lifetime. You can’t imagine the reward you will get from it, and it has nothing to do with book sales. There is no greater joy than opening an entire world for another human being – one filled with love, mystery, creatures, truth, horror, spirituality and so much more. Everyone who desires it should discover the people and places created by you as a writer. If you couldn’t read, wouldn’t you want to?

  • If you are up for this challenge, check with your local literacy center. They are located everywhere but they need volunteers like you.


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