To Be Among the Literate


Read any good books lately? I have. I’ve been reading Anais Nin’s “Under a Glass Bell,” a collection of short stories. I love her writing. I would hate to think I couldn’t read her stories, or those of Dorothy Parker, or those of Hemingway or any other author I enjoy. I’d hate to think I couldn’t write my own, as in my new book, “Marked: Collected Ramblings” which is now available on both Smashwords and as an ebook.

The truth is a great many teens and adults cannot read the writings of the authors I mentioned above. They can barely write their names or read simple directions. They may suffer self-esteem issues, have depression and typically have difficulty getting or keeping employment. Their entire lives can change if only they could read. Check out these scary stats I discovered at a site calledΒ  It’s okay, I’ll wait while you take a look.


I’ve taught two people to read – an adult who could only write his name and my oldest son, whom I homeschooled for a while and taught to read. The adult I worked with was one of those people who simply fell through the cracks in school. He suffered a terrible injury to his right arm while in the first grade, causing him to miss a lot of school and fall behind. Instead of holding him back, he was allowed to proceed through the grades, although he was not proficient in reading. He finally dropped out of school. He worked but was unable to advance from theΒ  minimum wage job he’d held for many years due to his illiteracy. He was stuck in that job, plus he was a single parent. I admired so much his courage for coming forth and saying he wanted to read. I admired his dedication to learning. He did progress, began to read and was able to move into a different job that paid better. It was humbling for me and so very rewarding to see his confidence grow as his reading improved. Literacy changes lives.

Check with your adult education center in your community if you are interested in learning more about how to teach an adult to read. I went through a training program that taught me everything I needed to be able to teach, and workbooks were provided for my student.

So, what have you been reading? What amazing places have you visited in a book lately? Any characters you just can’t get out of your head? Do tell…


(Image courtesy of Microsoft ClipArt)

29 responses »

  1. Those facts are heartbreaking. “Only an estimated 13% of adult Americans can perform complex and challenging literacy activities.”—That’s ridiculous in a country such as ours. It amazes me that children can advance on in school when they clearly can’t read, or more importantly, that they don’t get the help they need.

    I’m currently reading “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.” Great book and more literary than my usual thriller. πŸ™‚

    • I was told today by someone who worked in a bank that she had a customer who could only ‘make his mark’ on papers, and she would write beside it that she was a witness to the mark made by so and so. Isn’t that incredible? And scary? And your literary selection sounds interesting πŸ™‚

  2. That’s an awesome story – must be so rewarding to have such a positive impact on someone’s life! You kick ass!

    I am actually only now, for the first time in my life, discovering a book that’s considered a classic must read (which I haven’t read) – “Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. It’s perfect – funny, clever, inventive. If i ever write a novel this is what I*ll be aiming for!

    • I must have missed the announcement on that one, too, because I haven’t read it. I may have to check it out if it’s that good πŸ™‚ If you ever write a novel I’ll expect all those qualities in it!

  3. Nice post, Sheila. It’s so important: to know how to read. I haven’t taught any adults to read, but I have read to the blind on one of our local free radio station things. We read the news and sports and anything that we thought people out there might want to know.

    I hope your story inspires lots of other people to get on board.

  4. Great informative’s definitely true that “Literacy changes lives” and glad to hear you are having an impact in nonreaders’ lives!

    As for interesting reading, two of the more compelling novels I’ve read of late are:
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and
    The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom.

    Many thanks for sharing!
    Rachael πŸ™‚

  5. As a high school teacher for both teenagers and adults, I know of the challenges faced by students in a classroom setting. I think the most important step to break that boundary towards literacy is to motivate them into believing it’s an achievable goal. They are not dumb or stupid for not being able to read books the size and weight of bricks. Reading is a skill, and like any other, it can be learned if you train properly.

    • I would hope no one makes them feel dumb or stupid, but I remember in school there were kids who weren’t able to read well who were purposely pointed out or made to read in front of the class. I hope things are changing in that regard. You’re right – if they believe they can achieve the goal of reading, they can.

  6. Thanks for this article, Sheila. Right now I’m pretending to read Joel Rosenberg’s “The Last Days” and J.K. Rowling’s “A Casual Vacancy.” Pretending, as in, I’ve been reading bits and pieces for the past two months. Every little bit helps, I suppose.

    • Ha! I know about that – starting books and not finishing them. That’s one of the downsides to the Kindle for me – I choose several and then only read parts of those books! Thanks for stopping in!! πŸ™‚

  7. That is scary, that people can fall through the cracks like that. If I can, I would like to teach my lad to read before he starts school. He likes books so hopefully he will continue to be receptive to them, and then reading them himself.

    I like a few biographies this time of year. I’m working on Pete Townsend’s which is good, but like most things lately, taking me some time to get through, because I, well, have little time to read it.

    • I haven’t read any biographies in a while – when I was a kid our school library had the biographies of all the presidents – I read every one of them. I thought they were fascinating at the age of 10 πŸ™‚ And yes, definitely keep reading to your little guy- that’s the best way for him to learn to read, by hearing you. I homeschooled my first son through 3rd grade and teaching him to read was an amazing experience.

  8. I can’t imagine not reading. My mom taught me to read – a little early. She claims I read by 3. Damn, I’m smart.. LOL. I have no recollection but just know that I’ve always been a voracious reader. Best weekend fun for the class nerd in junior high – THREE Agatha Christie mystery’s in two days. Oh yeah…

    Love that you taught an adult to read. You really DO rock! πŸ˜€

    • You are smart!! and talented! Reading is one of the greatest pleasures and necessities in life. No one should have to miss out on being able to read πŸ™‚ Thanks for popping in Julie… stay warm up there!

  9. Oh Sheila, the lack of ability to read must be such a horrifying concept. Unfortunately, I see it almost every day. Working in a high school, I’m constantly in contact with students – not elementary, mind you, but nearly grown HIGH school students – who can’t read well at all. It’s a shame. I take such pride and joy in my ability to read and write. I can’t imagine going through life not knowing how to put together the most simple sentences. It’s great, too, that you take such pride as well.

    • Good to see you here Sean πŸ™‚ I would imagine you do see a lot of what’s referred to as ‘functionally illiterate’ kids. They can barely get by and the sad thing is, if they aren’t encouraged then they may stop trying all together once they get out of school, never gaining any ground at all, which means as adults they will have such a burden on them. By the way, I think you have an amazing job and I have total respect for what you do as an interpreter. Merry Wishes and Happy Holidays!

  10. Dear Sheila!

    First of all, I wanted to wish you and yours a very Happy, Joyous, Healthy and Blessed Christmas! May the Newborn Child shower you with His many graces…

    Second, I wanted to apologize for not commenting here in a while… I’ve been busy and kind of under the weather 😦

    This is one of those topics that goes right to my heart… Ever since I was a kid I’ve always preferred a book to a video game. I’ve always been sorrounded by books and I cannot imagine my life without them. I can do without many things…but not without a book.
    Reading is so magical. It broadens your horizons, develops the imagination and your vocabulary…lets you forget about everyday life…the list goes on and on πŸ™‚

    What I’ve read recently? “The Encyclopedia of Middle-Earth” by Robert Foster. An alphabetical index of all the names, places, weapons, etc. found in most of Tolkien’s works…even those not published here in Poland πŸ™‚

    Literacy is more precious than gold… And you are such an Angel for giving that Gift to those in need… πŸ™‚

    • Thank you so much for the kind words and well wishes! I do hope your day has been wonderful. I’m so glad you join me in having a love for literacy and seeing it as such a treasure. Your current reading sounds very interesting. I wish you a very happy new year!!! πŸ™‚

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