NEWS: Due to recent discussion around the inclusion of phonics in adult literacy, I thought I’d better mention that all lessons in both Part 1 and Part 2 of Literacy for Young Adults are age-appropriate linguistic phonics. It’s not about c-a-t says cat!
Community literacy, offered in an informal one-to-one setting, is a powerful tool for people who are wary of classrooms – and that includes many people who have tried and failed to learn to read and spell in the past.
Here are two more uplifting stories of success with young adults who got help through a community based That Reading Thing project.
The case studies are written by and used with the permission of Stefanie Boyle of Port Reach in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. All initials have been altered from the original report. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)
NS was referred to me by Armstrong Works saying that he could read a bit, but that his spelling and writing were not good and that he had learning difficulties and dyslexia. He told me while we were doing the initial assessments that he had started school in Ireland and was told he was dyslexic, but when he came to England he was told he had a learning disability. He had been a difficult pupil at school for the teachers and when he went to college the literacy and maths tutors had treated him as stupid and he often walked out of their classes.
That Reading Thing (TRT) so often provides the method for showing people that they can have confidence in their abilities, and within 20 minutes he had spelt ‘fantastic’ without help and by the third session he had spelt ‘recognition’ and ‘establishment’ without any assistance. When I asked him if he knew he could spell these words, he said he had no idea that his spelling was so good.
Over the sessions I worked with him, he has been one of the fastest people to pick up TRT; he spots patterns in the words faster than any student I have had and he has a good visual memory so the last level we did together, looking at all the different ways to spell the “ul” ending (table, metal, evil etc.) I turned into a spelling game less than half way through and he only needed help on a few of the less common words.
One session he explained that he would get cross when he wrote things down as he couldn’t get down on paper what was in his head. With a little more questioning from me, it transpired that he had very poor handwriting which he didn’t like and if he made a mistake on his course work he would rip it up and start again, so completing written work was very time consuming for him. The following session I brought my laptop with me and we had a go at using word processing to write things so that he could make changes without having to cross out or start again.
Part of the TRT approach is to build a mentoring relationship with the beneficiaries, so N would come to the sessions and tell me all about the jobs he had applied for and the interviews he had been to. We were able to talk about how important it was to be on time, and to wear appropriate clothes. The last session he came to he told me he had had interviews at the kitchens of two well-known hotels in town and he was waiting to hear if he had been successful in either. I heard nothing else from him despite a goodly number of calls and messages left on his machine.
I eventually heard from Armstrong Works that he had been successful in securing one of the kitchen jobs.
WS was referred to us by YouthFed as a NEET young person. When we first ran our reading age test on him, at the age of 24 he registered a reading age of and 8 years and 8 months old. He never missed an appointment and worked really hard in our sessions. We had 9 sessions in all but we re-tested at session 8 as we were not sure of the date of our last session. He re-tested with a reading age of 10 years and 3 months – a reading gain of 19 months in the 8 hours we had worked together.
In our exit questionnaire he said that before TRT he had difficulty reading labels and long words and he would only read graphic novels because the pictures helped him to understand the story. But since TRT he felt “joyful and happy”, and felt that he could spell words better because he knew how to break them down. He also said he had learnt to ‘take my time’ and not to rush or guess.
WS stated that his goal in working with us had been to improve his reading and writing to help him get a job and that he felt he had achieved these goals. For example, the day before the exit questionnaire, he had filled out job application forms online without the help of his advisor, something he had never done before.
When asked what he would say to someone else who struggled to read, WS replied “Learn how to read so you can get a job and improve your confidence in talking to people. It generally improves your confidence and you get a good feeling of achieving something – it is a life goal!”