Late literacy is a life-changer
Brenda Smith could not read more than a sentence until she overcame her embarrassment five years ago and sought help.
Learning to read at the age of 50 has opened up the Timaru woman's world and given her confidence.
"Now I can hold my head high and I'm enjoying life," she said.
As a child growing up in Temuka she was bullied at school. She was perceived to be not having to do as much schoolwork as the bullies and they resented it. Her teachers used visual stimulants to try to help her literacy. Using a hearing aid and having trouble processing information quickly also made learning difficult for her.
As an adult, not being able to read for so long meant she could not always easily interact socially.
"People knew things I didn't. I didn't always understand what they were talking about," she said.
Another problem was having to depend on others to read bus timetables and signs. Instead of writing down appointments she had to memorise them. As an office worker she memorised the letters on the typewriter keyboard and copy-typed words she had no understanding of.
"I wish I had learned [to read] a long time ago."
Miss Smith said she can read paragraphs now and "has a crack at the newspaper", often reading captions under the photos. "I'm not so dependent on other people and can read recipes."
Her advice to people struggling with reading and writing is to get help. "They'll be amazed at how they pick up on reading, even if they can't write. Don't be afraid to ask for help, like I was."
A Literacy South Canterbury tutor helped Miss Smith start to read; then she attended a life skills course at the YMCA. Next year she hopes to return to Literacy South Canterbury to continue her education. She is also planning to learn Spanish at Victoria House.
On Thursday the late reader received a commendation certificate, in recognition of all her work to improve her literacy, at the inaugural Adult Learners' award ceremony held in the council chambers.
- © Fairfax NZ News