By Susan Craton, originally published in The Washington Post, 6/17/10
Lloyd Brothers, a father of three, leans over the paper in front of him, takes a deep breath and reads aloud his assignment for a first-year level English class he attends at the College of Southern Maryland.
“Winners are the people that have dreams and goals in life. I’m one that didn’t have goals or dreams. I was just living. . . . As I got older I wanted a better life for myself, so I had to change. In fact, I’m a miracle today. God gave me a second opportunity on life.”
As he reads, his longtime literacy tutor, Laura Lang, sits next to him, listening. She knows he labored over those words. “Nice job. Very good,” she says after he finishes.
Just about every Monday for the past four years, Brothers has worked with Lang at the Lexington Park Library to improve his reading and writing skills. Lang is one of about 55 active tutors who volunteer with the Literacy Council of St. Mary’s County, which provides free one-on-one literacy tutoring to adults.
About 8 percent of adults in St. Mary’s County are illiterate — defined as lacking basic prose skills — according to the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, and the statewide adult illiteracy rate is 11 percent. The 2003 study has the most up-to-date statistics, said Bernie Kohn, director of communications and media relations at the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which oversees adult education in Maryland.
“It’s much higher than you realize,” said Mary Beth Brown, director of the Literacy Council of St. Mary’s. “It’s really quite shocking.”
Although Brothers, 45, was not illiterate when he began the program — he tested at about an eighth-grade reading level — his struggles with reading and writing had negative effects. He could not help his children with their homework, could not give readings in church, could not read instructions to the sports teams he coached, he said.
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