Reading is needed in everyday life

By: Linda Frederick Yaffe Placer Adult Literacy Service volunteer
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Reading changes lives. Every day — by intent or simply by chance — readers discover new interests, better jobs, absorbing hobbies …and pure pleasure. While putting together my first nonfiction book manuscript, I needed guidance. Reading a book showed me how to organize and best present my work: “How to Write a Book Proposal,” by Michael Larsen, helped move my project off my desk and into print. The words that help and inspire people may be found through deliberate research, or from glancing at a poster in the street. And how many people who cannot read miss all of these happy chances? Adults who cannot read do not have the information that readers absorb throughout every day: in books and publications, and on the Internet, billboards, street signs, labels, and maps. If you had never learned to read, you could only look at a publication’s images and wonder about the stories they illustrate. You couldn’t read the instructions on the box of pancake mix or understand the label on your new prescription medication. Your daily hours at work are a nightmare … because you can’t let anyone know your secret. In the evening, your children ask for help with homework, or your grandchild begs you to read them a story; and once again you make excuses. Reading is the keystone that supports so many other aspects of life. The inability to read causes stress, low self-esteem, and affects people’s ability to take care of themselves and their families. Have you noticed adults in your life who struggle with reading, writing, grammar, and/or spelling? A struggling reader could be someone you know well … or an individual you are meeting for the first time. The inability to read is a hidden problem; it is often unnoticed, even by those close to the non-reader: family, friends, or employers. Non-readers, through years of daily practice, become adept at cleverly concealing their problem. Listen for repetitions of some of the following signals: — Could you read this for me? I’ve forgotten my glasses; I remember better when I hear things — My eyes are bothering me; I have a headache; the lighting is bad — I’ll take this home and get back to you; I want my spouse to look it over Watch for these repeated signs: — Avoids activities that require reading or writing — Asks a child to read it aloud, “so he can practice his reading” — Always orders “the special” in a restaurant or asks others to order for them — Pays all bills in person using cash One in five adult Americans, Americans whose first language is English, has a reading problem. Non-readers come from every socioeconomic background and might be as young as 19 or as mature as 90 years old. When you notice someone with poor — or nonexistent — reading, writing, grammar and/or spelling skills, gently encourage him or her to call for help. They can set and meet their own goals, at their own pace, as they receive confidential, one-on-one free reading help from Placer Adult Literacy Service (PALS): (530) 886-4530 or (888) 767-7323. You can help by joining the Literacy Support Council of Placer County: become a volunteer Reading Booster. Reading Boosters support PALS; they organize and speak out for literacy. And you can help by volunteering as a Reading Coach. Complete the enjoyable, informative Reading Coach training; then know the joy and excitement of helping an adult in your community to change their life through reading. Contact the Placer Adult Literacy Service at (530) 886-4530; Linda Frederick Yaffe of Auburn is an author of several books including “Backpack Gourmet” and “Solar Cooking for Home & Camp.” She also serves as a volunteer Reading Coach and Reading Booster for the Placer Adult Literacy Service, a program of the Placer County Library.