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Think about your life. Consider each of the opportunities that you’ve had in the past, as well as everything you’re involved in right now. Contemplate the years of schooling you’ve gone through, the various jobs you’ve held, and the successes that you’ve experienced. Now ponder this question: how would your life be different if you couldn’t read or write?
In a society that is largely built on being able to read and write, it’s difficult to imagine what life would be like without literacy skills. For example, in order to get a job, there is a great deal of writing involved: an applicant must locate a job opening, complete a job application, and write a resume. Then, if an applicant happens to land a job, there’s no telling how much their success in the workplace will depend on their ability to read and write, as it so often does. There are similar difficulties in obtaining a driver’s license, applying for and succeeding in school, enrolling a child in school, going to the doctor, and even going shopping.
People who live in Utah Valley – a place known for its educational values and prestigious universities – often don’t realize that illiteracy is as big a problem here as it is in the rest of the world. In fact, there are nearly 30,000 adults who struggle with literacy in Utah County alone. Each of these individuals truly understands what an illiterate life is like, and they chillingly describe it as “terrifying.”
Angelica Rowley, a resident of Provo, used to be one of these struggling individuals. In describing her experience, she said: “I felt like I didn’t belong. I always felt inferior and embarrassed. I almost ran away.” Although she did all in her power, Angelica was unable to find reliable employment because she struggled with literacy. Eventually, she was hired to clean houses, but would often get lost on the way to work because she couldn’t read the bus map or schedule.
Luckily, Angelica was able to learn about programs in the Provo area that provide literacy classes and one-on-one tutoring for adults in need. She sought out Project Read, an organization that has been serving illiterate adults in Utah County since 1984. She studied closely with her assigned tutor for a few years, gaining the literacy skills that she lacked, and applied her newfound knowledge in order to experience a better life.
In the same year that she graduated from Project Read, Angelica graduated with honors from an adult high school and enrolled in college. Later, she found work at a care center, where she was frequently recognized for her excellently-written reports. Angelica was quickly promoted to train the facility’s new employees, and it was through this position that she met and trained the man who would become her husband. At their wedding, Angelica’s maid of honor was her tutor from Project Read.
Project Read’s tagline, “Changing Lives Through Literacy,” is a phrase that Angelica takes to heart. “How did literacy change my life? In so many ways! I was able to go to school, feel more confident, and not be scared or embarrassed anymore. I was able to read and write perfectly and not have any problems. I was able to communicate with people and actually marry one of those people.”
Angelica and her husband live in Provo with their children, and even though she’s not working outside the home, she’s still able to use her literacy skills. “Sometimes I help [my husband] with his grammar and spelling. He’s like: ‘how do you spell this?’, and I’m grateful to be able to help him.”
If someone you know struggles with literacy, refer them to Project Read!
Address: 550 N University Avenue #215, Provo, UT 84601
Open Tuesday-Thursday from 10 AM – 8 PM
Open Friday from 10 AM – 4 PM
Open Saturday from 10 AM – 2 PM
Closed Sunday and Monday
Phone: 801.448.READ (7323)
Nathan is an information junkie, a spontaneous adventurer, and a nonprofit advocate. He is currently pursuing public relations and nonprofit management at BYU and works with Project Read to encourage literacy in the community.He lives in Provo with his wife, Sheila, and is hoping this winter won't be too cold