For new tutor Shirlene Howard, the draw to adult literacy traces back to her childhood. She grew up in Danville, and neither of her parents completed elementary school. Her father dropped out in first grade and her mother in third. When Shirlene was growing up, they worked long days at a Dan River mill. Despite those circumstances, Shirlene’s father was an avid reader. He especially enjoyed reading about plants and animals found in Virginia.

Reading was Shirlene’s main source of entertainment. During the summers, she and her sister could not leave their front yard while their parents were working. They would entertain themselves by reading and listening to serial stories on the radio. Trips to the library were as exciting as trips to the carnival. “I remember discovering Charles Dickens when I was in the fifth grade,” she recalls. He was one of the many authors she enjoyed.

“I am who I am today because I read. It’s how I learned to speak. I never would have gotten the job that I did without being able to read, write, and speak properly,” says Shirlene. In fact, Shirlene never had much hope to work anywhere except the mills. She never would have known there was another option. Thanks to her love of reading, she learned the literacy skills necessary to work as a teller at a bank. By the time she retired, Shirlene had become a vice president of the bank.

It is not surprising that Shirlene chose to join READ as a tutor. She experienced the positive effect that literacy has on lives. When asked about joining READ, Shirlene reiterates, “Reading made me who I am. To give the same gift to someone else… can you imagine the feeling?”

The READ Center welcomed 25 new tutors like Shirlene to the program on Saturday, October 12th. READ teacher Leslie Harper led them through training exercises and goal setting workshops. The READ Center is grateful for all tutors who spend their time helping adults learn to read.

The READ Center is changing lives through adult literacy. For more information on how you can get involved with the READ Center, consider volunteering as a tutor or donating. If you or someone you know would like more information about joining our classes, learn how to become a student or call 804-288-9930.