Even as you’re reading this article, you’re probably not even realizing that you are lucky to not be among the 17 percent of the world population that can’t read. It also might not register in your mind that you are extremely lucky to have learned how to read and write. And if you thought this was only a Third World problem, think again.
Sixty-four-year-old Knoxville, Tennessee, resident Ralph Burns is a man who until recently couldn’t read a word. That was until Friends of Literacy, an organization that teaches adults to read for free, took him under their wings. For the past year-and-a-half, he has met with a literacy teacher for two hours a week and can now read enough simple words that he can understand road signs. This, he says, has changed his life immensely.
“It’s opened up a new world for me,” Burns said. “I can go into a restaurant now and look at a menu and I can see what they got. I can almost figure out a lot on the menu now.”
His tutor, Sydney Osborne, says that he has made so much improvement in his reading that he can now finish a Dr. Seuss book in less than 15 minutes – down from the six hours it took him when he first started reading.
Burns, a musician and retired painter, says that it was his rough childhood that led to his illiteracy. Abandoned as a child, he was he was raised by “another guy.” He said that although his adopter did send him to school they couldn’t teach him. Instead, the teachers would hire him to do chores like mow their lawns. At 14, he decided he might as well do it full time.
“I quit school and gone on my own. And I learned a skill and I started making money. It’s hard to go anywhere without an education, but I had a lot of common sense,” Burns said.
About four years ago, a church friend referred him to Friends of Literacy where he was paired up with a tutor. The rest, as they say, is history.
Featured image courtesy of People