Learn from the book
How a retired lawyer and Regions associate are advancing adult literacy.
Northampton, MA –News Direct– Bank of Regions
By Kim Borges
“The stories I could tell you about the courage of these people.”
When Carolyn Wilson describes her heroes, they are not literary characters in the books she reads. It is the adult students whom she teaches to read them.
Since 2016, Wilson has been helping people in their 50s, 60s, and even 60s learn to read as a facilitator with the Literacy Council of Union County in El Dorado, Arkansas. This is her final chapter after careers as a teacher and lawyer.
“I lasted four months after I retired,” Wilson recalled. “I thought, ‘I have to get out of the house. I have to find something to do.
A believer in lifelong learning – she began her law career in her early 40s – Wilson was first a volunteer tutor before taking on the role of part-time staff, working with 12 students each week.
The Literary Council offers tutoring and all supplies free of charge to students.
“Learning to read as an adult is a long, slow process,” she said. “It takes years. We learn word by word, letter by letter. We tailor each session to the student.
Regions Private Wealth Management partner Bethany Gaddy learned about the Literacy Council through United Way of Union County. The association is a partner agency of United Way.
“I got involved in 2017 after moving to El Dorado and joining the United Way board,” Gaddy explained. “In 2019, I served as Vice Chairman and then Chairman of the Board in 2020.”
Supporting literacy programs is personal to Gaddy. She has a family member with dyslexia and has seen the challenges that presents.
“The school he attended didn’t have the budget to teach literacy to students with dyslexia, and now, as an adult, he’s struggling to find a job,” Gaddy said. “His experience and the impact of the Literacy Council in our community inspires me to share their mission and raise awareness of the important services they offer. I am also committed to helping them obtain financial support through Centraide and by making a personal donation.
This support includes a $3,500 contribution from Regions Bank to United Way of Union County, benefiting various partner organizations.
Wilson said barriers to employment are just one of many challenges faced by people who cannot read.
“It affects everything from ordering a menu to taking a driving test,” she said. “People who cannot read have learned to use coping mechanisms to circumvent illiteracy. If they’re in a restaurant, they’ll let someone order first and say, “I’ll take what they have.”
These coping mechanisms help overcome the stigma associated with illiteracy.
“I’ve had students tell me they felt embarrassed, ashamed, looked over and under,” Wilson said. “They may think they’re stupid or slow, but that’s not the case at all. They are determined, therefore I am determined.
Wilson and his students proved that during the pandemic. They could not meet in person to read together. The solution? Organize literacy sessions by landline phone, as many students do not have mobile phones with visual capabilities.
Wilson called each student to explain how their tutoring would continue with weekly 60-90 minute sessions over the phone.
“To me, it didn’t seem unreasonable to continue,” she said. “It was a no-brainer. I couldn’t let them lose what they worked so hard for.
For six months, these sessions went like clockwork.
“Bless them they were stuck with me,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t going to let them down. I recognize their dedication.
Wilson’s dedication is an example that inspires Bethany Gaddy in her commitment to serving the community.
“Through my volunteering, I learned that one person can and does make a difference,” Gaddy said. “We don’t 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 this area because we can only make things better when we work together.
The Literacy Council has installed safety devices allowing students to resume in-person learning.
“I told them, ‘It’s time to come back now,'” Wilson said. “And I work with their schedules. I have the privilege of adapting my time to theirs.
And telephone tutoring still shapes the sessions.
“I think the pandemic has taught me how much the visual is related to reading,” she said. “It reinforced what I needed to do. It also reminded me that I really love teaching. I love the individual trust you build between people.
Also under construction? Confidence and thirst for knowledge.
“At first 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.
For example, how brave they really are – and how that bravery leads to success.
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See the source version on newsdirect.com: https://newsdirect.com/news/learning-by-the-book-574505610