Literacy council helps locals learn to readPublished 11:41am Friday, November 23, 2012
One in four Alabamians is functionally illiterate, according to Rita Cream, director of the Lake Martin Laubach Literacy Council.
“Functionally illiterate means they can’t handle their own bank account, can’t read a newspaper and can’t fill out an application,” Cream said. “It’s sad in this day and age we still have people who can’t read.”
Cream said the Lake Martin Laubach Literacy Council is working to lower that statistic by pairing trained adult volunteers with adults who want to learn to read.
“We work hard to get the shame taken out of adults not being able to read,” Cream said. “We create a one-on-one learning environment in a time and place of the learners choosing. We try to make the experience really different from school. Most of our learners didn’t have a very good experience with school.”
Cream said the materials are designed to start learners at the ground level, but are not children’s books.
“You really can’t use the same approach you use with kids,” Cream said. “We use material designed specifically for adults.”
Cream said the United Way helps provide these materials and keep the service free for all adults who want to learn to read.
“There is no cost for volunteers or learners,” Cream said. “The United Way makes it possible for us to be able to provide curriculum and some of extras for learners and their tutors.”
Cream said the council has made a difference in the lives of several people in the community.
“We had one gentleman come in who had turned down several promotions at work because he couldn’t read,” Cream said. “If you just talked to him you’d have no idea he couldn’t read. He built his entire house except for the plumbing.”
Cream said he completed the program within nine months.
“The next time he was offered a promotion he was able to take it and do better for his family,” Cream said. “We helped him improve his life in some significant way.”
Cream said there is no exact timeline for how quickly a person can learn to read, but the process is very rewarding.
“This is not instant,” Cream said. “It’s not microwave popcorn learning. It may take a little while.”
She said several volunteers are touched by the experience.
“It’s the most exhilarating feeling you can imagine,” Cream said. “It’s great fun when you see that light bulb go off and realize learning is having an effect. It becomes quite exhilarating to see student develop and come into their own.”
Cream said the council is always in need of volunteers, and she encourages all who are interested in learning to read or teaching adults to read to contact her at 256-215-4347.