Some think that adults in this country who lack literacy skills must be fine with it, that it somehow reflects a decision they made when they were young. But if we took the time to listen and change our perspective, we’d likely hear something different:
“Yesterday, I went to the funeral for my friend’s mother. The service was beautiful. There was a booklet my friend said he put together, with photos of their family and what I guess were stories about them. I know my friend must have worked hard on the folder. At the end, they sang Amazing Grace from the hymn book. I wanted to sing, but I don’t know the words by heart. I hate not being able to read. But I don’t have anyone to call on for help, and I don’t want my friends to know. I feel like I’m going through life blindfolded.”
“I’m an old guy, and I’ve learned over the years how to hide that I can’t read. I’m pretty good at it. Sometimes, I’ll claim I left my glasses at home and ask my buddy to read the menu on the chalk board at the restaurant. Sometimes, if my wife can’t drive me somewhere, I make up an excuse not to go, because I’m worried I can’t read the signage well enough to get to a new place. Sometimes, I open up the paper at work and pretend to read while the other guys are talking about what’s in a sports page column. Sometimes, I’m so tired of pretending that I want to yell and hit something. But starting back to school now would be hopeless and humiliating. I’m going through life blindfolded.”
“This guy at work is really nice and really cute. We eat lunch together in the break room and discuss movies we’ve seen. We always like the same ones. Today he asked me out to see a new film. It’s in Chinese. But he said not to worry, because it has subtitles. I told him no, because I don’t like foreign films. I know he didn’t believe me and thinks I’m just not into him. But I can’t tell him I can’t read. It’s too embarrassing. I’ve tried to learn on my own, but I just can’t do it. I don’t know why. I feel so sad, I might as well be going through life blindfolded.”
“My baby came home from school today, all excited and waving a piece of paper. He said it was a note to me from his teacher telling me how well he had done on a project. ‘Read it, Mama, read it now!’ I had to say I didn’t have time right now. His face fell. His Dad will read it to us when he gets home, but that painful moment is frozen in time for me. This has to stop. It’s breaking my heart. I have to learn to read. But how? My English is not very good. The school system doesn’t have anything to help me. We can’t afford a private tutor. It’s like I’m going through life blindfolded.”
Take time today to try and understand the challenges faced by the thousands of people in this metro area who are able, capable, and admirable, and who also are illiterate. Remember that very few choose to go through life blindfolded. Life does harsh and strange things to people. Literacy KC works hard to teach students how to remove their blindfolds and experience the world the rest of us sometimes take for granted.