Thursday, September 15, 2011

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2011: Teaching Struggling Readers

This week, once again, commemorates Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. A year ago, I wrote a blog post sharing a few ideas about how to get involved in literacy efforts to commemorate this event.  As a recap, some of my ideas included the following:
  • Check out volunteer tutoring opportunities in your local community. 
  • Learn how to teach someone to read. A helpful, free resource is found at
  • Join a book club or an online book-sharing group, such as goodreads, which allows you to see what your friends have read, keep track of what you've read and what you'd like to read, and get ideas for additional books to read.
  • Read a little more for pleasure. We often take the fact that we can read for granted.
  • Write in a diary or journal.
  • Consider how your ability to read and write affects your life. Consider the privilege it is to be literate. I've documented some of my thoughts in the previous blog posts "Lessons Learned from Life" and "The Value of Literacy."
(For additional ideas about ways to promote literacy, visit my blog post "Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2010".)

Reviewing these lists of ways to get involved in literacy efforts again, one year after I wrote this blog post, I am prompted to recall my personal efforts to promote literacy. Something I recently engaged in (as recently as today, in fact) includes teaching someone how to read.

Today I met with a gentleman in his sixties who has never learned how to read. After being pushed through Special Ed. all growing up, he finally dropped out of school in the 11th grade. He is actively searching for work (again) after having to quit his previous job where he started as a dishwasher at a high-end restaurant, and then, because of his good work ethic, was promoted to take drink orders. But since he couldn't write down the orders (words such as "Coke" and "tea"), he had to resign. I have the privilege of teaching him how to read. Today we met for the first time. We started working on some basic alphabetic principles: reviewing a few letters in the alphabet (name, sound, uppercase formation, and lowercase formation), putting a beginning consonant sound with a vowel (called a slide), and then putting letters together to form three-letter words. And to his surprise, he was reading! After a few successful attempts reading words using this approach, I heard him say under his breath, "This is going to be good." I am grateful for this opportunity to teach someone such a valuable skill as reading. Nothing has worked for him before, but I'm determined to prove to him that he CAN learn how to read. He said that he thinks teachers did what they could to help him growing up, and then they would quit trying because they didn't know what else to do for him. I assured him that I won't quit. I'm looking forward to the having the opportunity to witness his growth as he learns to read for the first time in his life.

I will intermittently write blog posts providing updates on my tutoring efforts with the goal of providing additional resources to teach literacy. 

Here's some food for thought: What literacy needs do you see in your settings? What resources are available to help fill these needs?

(Read more about a subsequent tutoring experience here.)


  1. What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing and for blogging. I look forward to reading more about your tutoring efforts.

  2. Thank you, Jackie. I hope you'll come back and visit this blog often. I appreciate your contributions to improving literacy, as well. :)