How a retired lawyer and a regional partner promote adult reading skills.
Northampton, MA –News Direct– Regions Bank
By Kim Borges
“The stories I could tell you about how brave these people are.”
When Carolyn Wilson describes her heroes, they are not literary characters in the books she reads. It is the adult students she learns to read them.
Since 2016, Wilson has helped people in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s learn to read as a facilitator at the Literacy Council of Union County in El Dorado, Arkansas. It is her latest chapter after careers as a teacher and lawyer.
“I persevered four months after I retired,” Wilson recalled. “I thought, ‘I need to get out of the house. I need to find something to do.'”
A supporter of lifelong learning – she began her law career in the early 40s – Wilson was first a volunteer teacher before taking on the role of part-time employee and working with 12 students each week.
The Literary Council provides guidance and all supplies at no cost to students.
“Learning to read as an adult is a long, slow process,” she said. “It takes years. We learn word for word, letter for letter. We tailor each session to the student.”
Regions Private Wealth Management associate Bethany Gaddy discovered Literacy Council through the United Way of Union County. The non-profit organization is a United Way partner agency.
“I got involved in 2017 after moving to El Dorado and joining the United Way board,” Gaddy explained. “In 2019, I served as Vice President and then Chairman of the Board in 2020.”
Supporting reading and writing programs is personal to Gaddy. She has a family member with dyslexia and has seen the challenges it presents.
“The school he went to did not have the budget to teach reading and writing skills to students with dyslexia, and now, as an adult, he is struggling to find employment,” Gaddy said. “His experience and the influence that the Literacy Council makes in our community is what drives me to share their mission and raise awareness of the important services they provide. I am also committed to helping them gain support through United Way and by personally donating. “
This support includes a $ 3,500 contribution that Regions Bank makes to the United Way of Union County for the benefit of various partner agencies.
Wilson said employment barriers are just one of many challenges that people who cannot read face.
“It affects everything from ordering from a menu to taking a driving test,” she said. “People who cannot read have learned to use coping mechanisms to navigate around illiteracy. If they are in a restaurant, they will let someone order first and say, ‘I get what he has’.”
These coping mechanisms help overcome the stigma associated with illiteracy.
“I’ve had students tell me they feel embarrassed, ashamed, overlooked and less than that,” Wilson said. “They may think they are stupid or slow, but that is not the case at all. They are determined, so I am determined. “
Wilson and her students proved it during the pandemic. They could not meet in person to read together. The solution? Conducting literacy sessions with landline phone, as many students do not have mobile phones with visual capabilities.
Wilson called each student to tell how their tutoring would continue with weekly 60- to 90-minute sessions over the phone.
“To me, it did not seem unreasonable to continue,” she said. “It was a no-brainer. I could not let them lose it, they have worked so hard to win.”
For six months, these sessions took place like clockwork.
“Bless them, they were stuck with me,” Wilson said. “I was not going to give them up. I credit their dedication.”
Wilson’s dedication serves as an example that inspires Bethany Gaddy in her commitment to serving the community.
“Through my volunteer work, I have learned that one person can and does make a difference,” Gaddy said. “We do not have the luxury of standing aside and leaving the work to others. I encourage people to find the passion they have and give back in that field because we can only do things better when we work together. “
The Literacy Council has installed security features that allow students to come back to learn in person.
“I said to them, ‘It’s time to come back now,'” Wilson said. “And I work with their schedules. I am privileged to have my time taken care of theirs. ”
And the telephone instruction still shapes the sessions.
“I think the pandemic taught me how important the visual is related to reading,” she said. “It reinforced what I was going to do. It also reminded me that I really like teaching. I love the one-on-one trust you build between people.”
also being built? Confidence and thirst for knowledge.
“In the beginning, we learn to read, but as we get older, we read to learn,” Wilson said. “I have seen our students develop better self-esteem and make discoveries about themselves.”
Such as how brave they really are – and how that bravery leads to success.
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See the source version at newsdirect.com: https://newsdirect.com/news/learning-by-the-book-574505610