Someone has said that there is no such thing as functional illiteracy; because when a person is illiterate, he is not functional—Theodore Roosevelt
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a woman asking if I would be willing to teach a 40yr friend of her father to read and write. I had posted my resume on some tutoring websites stating that I would be willing to offer tutoring help for Bio, Chem, Eng, etc. I knew it was possible for me to get emails from parents soliciting help for their kids but I had never anticipated getting one that would require me to actually teach someone how to read and write more or less an adult practically for scratch.
I was a little bit nervous about how to respond to the email. Deep within me I knew there was no question as to whether I would do it. I just had a little self doubt about my own capabilities to achieve this task and what it would mean once I said “yes.” If there was anything I could be sure of was the fact that by teaching this person to read and write, I would be introducing them to a whole new world. This simple thought pushed me to accept the challenge.
I got a reply shortly after I accepted the tutoring offer, stating that Dan the person I was going to be helping was extremely shy and felt embarrassed about his situation. He was also particular skeptical about learning because he was afraid whoever was going to teach him would think he is stupid. He had dropped out of high school and got into the work force and never once went back to school. I figured that was a long time ago. Probably before or around the time I was born. I am 21 years old.
Anyways, I would be having my first meeting with Dan in two days. I am very excited about our meeting. I cannot say the same about the help that is being offered to illiterates in the country. According to Chris Hedges, “there are over 42 million American adults, 20 percent of whom hold high school diplomas, who cannot read, as well as the 50 million who read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level. Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate. And their numbers are growing by an estimated 2 million a year. But even those who are supposedly literate retreat in huge numbers into this image-based existence. A third of high school graduates, along with 42 percent of college graduates, never read a book after they finish school. Eighty percent of the families in the United States last year did not buy a book.”
Finding the right text and work book to use has been a journey in of itself. I have performed hundreds of searches on the web to get any resources that could be available to no avail. I think there has to be a conscious effort to help people like Dan who are still willing to give themselves a chance to be much more productive in life. It’s not only important to make sure no child is left behind but also, no adult is forgotten! There ought to be government sponsored programs to help adult illiterates in today’s society. As Timothy Fortune says “men may be spoiled by education, even as they are spoiled by illiteracy. Education is the preparation of the mind for future work; hence men should be educated with special reference to the work.”