By Ashley Moore Think for a few seconds…what would life be like if you couldn’t read? It’s almost unfathomable. Needless to say, illiteracy contributes to one’s ability to participate in society at large. The ability to read is a gift we often take for granted. And unbeknownst to most, there are many people within the United States that cannot read or write. In the U.S., 30 million people over age 16 — 14% of the country’s adult population — do not read well enough to understand a newspaper story written at the eighth grade level or to fill out a job application. (source: Proliteracy). Literacy is a gift that should exist for everyone: from the single mom who never got the chance to finish schooling to the Nashville refugee who came to the US to make a better life for herself.
In Nashville, 12% of the adult population is functionally illiterate. This means they are unable to read even texts with very minimal words, such as a bus schedule or a TV guide. In response, the Nashville Adult Literacy Council (NALC) provides free literacy classes as well as one-on-one tutoring programs free of charge for the Metro Nashville area. The program is available for native English speakers and also the growing refugee/immigrant population that exists in Davidson County.
Every Friday I meet with Ayman, an Egyptian native who recently received her naturalization, passing her test with flying colors. She is now a United States citizen yet still lacks the simple reading and speaking skills necessary to help her younger sons with their homework. She wants to learn to read because she can help her children educationally and help her family as a whole by getting a better paying job. She is faithful to attend classes on time, week after week. She is eager to learn, attending a group class on Tuesday nights along with our tutoring sessions. As we struggle through reading and grammar exercises we talk about our lives and stories. Her dreams are simple – she wants to provide for her family. She sees that her only way of ‘making it’ here is to learn to speak and read better. For Ayman, learning to read and speak in English is a matter of survival.