Saturday, October 3, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, a friend mentioned that she was planning to attend some training sessions to become a Literacy Volunteer. I've always wanted to become more involved in the Literacy Volunteers, so I tagged along. I've just finished my second session (of three) of training and am loving the experience. I've learned so much about working with adults and teen who are not functionally literate.

I guess that I've never really thought about what it would mean to be completely illiterate. A woman who led some parts of my training today spoke with great emotion about the process she undertook in learning to read and write. She was very crafty before she learned to read. She would almost trick people into helping her so that she would not have to admit that she couldn't perform tasks that most of us take for granted every day.

In one powerful demonstration, she asked us to pretend that we could not read. She then took a bottle of yellow household cleaner and placed it next to a container of cooking oil. The bottles clearly resembled each other. How would a person who could not read tell the difference between the two when shopping? After this lesson, I realized that the entire world would become a confusing and stress-inducing place. How would you take a trip to a place you've never been if you couldn't read street signs? How would you pick out a birthday card for your child? How would you fill out the forms at the doctor's office? Questions like these have been queuing in my brain every night since beginning this training. I am amazed at the strength and courage of those who cannot read and write fluently.

Though this training has taken away from some free time that I might have otherwise spent doing a whole host of other activities, I feel like none of this time has been wasted. If you'd like more information about this international organization, check out the ProLiteracy site.

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