This question was asked in a recent article about a woman, Denise O’Neal, who is sharing her literacy struggles in the hopes it will help others get the help they need.

Denise did not begin her advocacy for adult literacy willingly. “For most of her life, Denise O’Neal did a good job hiding her secret from the world. Then in 2006, when she struggled to read a Dr. Seuss book to her 3-year-old son, her secret was out.” Denise with the support of her husband, an avid reader, sought help and received it. She currently serves on the board of the San Diego Council on Literacy where she helps raise awareness and funds for adult literacy.

As you read the article about Denise, you find she is dyslexic which made it much harder for her to learn to read. “Her mom (a single mother) had little time to work with her, and when she did, she’d get frustrated and tell her daughter she wasn’t trying hard enough. For a while in school, O’Neal worked with a tutor. But instead of learning to read, she developed a variety of workarounds, coping mechanisms and strategies to hide her limitations.”

If you’ve gone to school and you can’t read or write, you don’t want anyone to know.

Denise’s story is like many we hear at The READ Center.  Students are frustrated, embarrassed, ashamed and work hard to keep their literacy secret hidden. While more than 73,000 adults in metro Richmond have literacy issues, only a fraction will seek the help they need to improve their skills.

Denise’s advice to adults like her, “It’s really scary and intimidating and overwhelming to have to read a book when you’re struggling. Don’t feel you’re less of a person because you can’t read or remember sometimes. There’s help out there.”

If you know someone who needs literacy help, please have them contact The READ Center at 804-288-9930. Calls to The READ Center are confidential. We are happy to answer questions about our programs and let students know they are welcome and we want to help them.

If you would like to help adults in our community improve their literacy skills, become a volunteer adult literacy tutor. Just a few hours a week can make a big difference in our students’ lives. The READ Center believes everyone needs and deserves a literate life.