Every night, Lisa read to her young daughter Elizabeth before putting her to bed. It was a ritual that both enjoyed, and Lisa really wanted her daughter to understand the importance of reading. One night, as Elizabeth listened to the story her mother was telling, she looked at the page that her mother was reading from and said, “mommy, that’s not what it says in the book.” Elizabeth, now in third grade, had discovered her mother’s long held secret. She couldn’t read and had been making up the stories for years.
Turning points like this one happen all the time in the lives of adults who never learned to read as children. It takes great humility to admit the truth to themselves, great courage to seek help and great tenacity to stick with a program and succeed. For those fortunate to find the Delaware County Literacy Council (DCLC), the journey to literacy is made easier due to devoted, compassionate teachers and tutors who dedicate countless volunteer hours to their students. Students and tutors create bonds based upon mutual trust and respect, often forming relationships that last beyond the years they may spend learning together.
I heard this particular story, as well as many others, at DCLC’s 40th anniversary celebration this week. I was there because I had worked with the Council over the past year to refresh the organization’s logo and create a series of posters called Faces of Literacy that include photographs, taken by Andy Shelter, of students, tutors, staff and volunteers, accompanied by their stories. The posters, which have been used throughout the year at anniversary-related events, will now likely travel around the county to be displayed in public spaces such as libraries and community centers to publicize DCLC’s services.
Small organizations have big stories. Big stories that are about real people doing amazing work and changing lives. This is why I do what I do.