Curiosity brought me to The Literacy Center at Ivy Tech in early 1987. I was intrigued by an article in the Evansville Courier & Press requesting volunteers to tutor adults in basic reading skills or to help read a second language. Because I had tutored several young students in English while in college, I felt I had some experience to contribute. I knew tutoring was rewarding, so I immediately volunteered.
My work as the Volunteer Office Manager at the Literacy Center was terrific for me because I got back much more than I put in. Watching the pride on the faces of the student graduates was a joy; as was watching the volunteers take pride in their work; and the tutors take pride in their students.
Three decades later, I needed similar help reading due to a serious medical condition, which caused memory loss and communication problems. The Literacy Center appeared in yet another article in the Courier which piqued my interest again. This article told the story of a young adult starting to attend college who needed help with her reading skills. Well, again, I thought, “Aha —that’s for me!”
I was a lucky child. My parents raised my siblings and me to value our education. They read to us when we were very young and surrounded us with wonderful books, took us to the library, and played games with us through young adulthood. Reading became a life-long passion of mine. When I lost my memory and communication skills, it affected all aspects of my life. However, because I liked to read so much, I turned to fiction – political and legal thrillers, especially. I read the daily newspaper cover to cover. Then some time passed, and more and more I wanted to resume my education.
After years away from my university studies and a career in management, I wanted to better myself through more formal education. I wanted to read the literature and non-fiction books that require more advanced reading skills. First, I realized I needed to refresh my current reading skills and “unplug” blocked memory to improve comprehension of the written word.
Two major factors were holding me back: I was computer illiterate, and I was unable to afford any local school. The Literacy Center article stated that this facility “offers free reading instruction and tutoring for adults.” What a wonderful opportunity! And so, here I am. For the last nine months I have studied grammar, composition, and effective communication. My instructor teaches me one-on-one. I work in the computer lab at the Literacy Center and at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I want to fully comprehend legal documents, such as insurance and hospital policies. These contracts are important as I become older. With my tutor, I even review street signs to improve my driving, because signs have changed significantly since I have moved residences several times and I have aged. I read aloud to my instructor so that I can become a better conversationalist and speaker. I have rediscovered the joy of writing: I want to become a better writer, just for the love of writing. I want to type on the computer to join the present and future technological world. I feel less out of touch with my family, friends, and the younger generation because I am improving my computer abilities as a result of the computer sessions at the Literacy Center.
Have I mentioned my age—67! I am a senior citizen with a young mind. While most of my peers are in retirement, I am going back to school—and I dearly love each day preparing for my class sessions. Don’t get me wrong: I still have to work to prepare my lessons properly. However, there is a real element of fun. I am always enthused by my instructor’s presentations, and the questions she poses. My homework is not easy, and every lesson is a challenge. For you see, I am on dialysis three times a week, for four hours each session. Learning means so much to me – it is a high priority for the life I have left.
Fortunately, a place like the Literacy Center exists for people who are less fortunate—who had no help at home with their schooling and are experiencing difficulty reading and writing – or like me, educated but older, and needing to refresh their reading skills. The Literacy Center is the one special facility making education possible for me. And perhaps, possible for someone you know. Even you!
Linda S. Kramer