The Elusive "B"
by dub W 3/24/2007 / Christian Living
Doubtfully, anyone using the Internet could be considered illiterate. After all, a user must be able to normally read, and functionally pick out the keys on the keyboard. However, not everyone is so privileged. In the United States today there are over 30 million adults who do not have the skills to read or write their own name ("How Much is Being Able to Read Worth?" ProLiteracy America. http://www.proliteracy.org). Shocking? It should be, we US citizens live in a society that prizes education, and promotes itself as one of the most literate countries in the world. Hard to believe that some folks don't know how to make a "b."
What if a neighbor could not write a letter, address a card, or even sign their name when UPS delivered a package to their door. Think it doesn't happen. About 63 million Americans struggle with those tasks everyday (ProLiteracy).
Each of us probably began writing the same way. We were given a fat pencil for our small hands and a half sheet of grainy paper. The paper had about four sets of three lines each, with the middle line being dotted. Letter formation is taught the same way today in elementary schools, and by literacy groups. The difference for a literacy group is that the student is usually over thirty years old.
Most of us take great joy in signing our name. Often with flourishing big bold letters to announce our style. One gentleman with whom I work, simply places and X in the corner of a line when he is required to sign his name. A notary must attest to his X.
How does a person print the letter "b"? Few people even stop to consider such a motor skill, because we began this effort when we were five years old. My friend, I will call him Bob for this paper, must make a conscious effort to remember to draw a line downward, then put one or two bumps on the right hand side. He struggles to remember the difference between a "b" and a "d." No, he is not stupid, he probably had a learning disability when he was in elementary school, but in 1955, nobody discussed learning disabilities. And in his country school, he simply sat in the back of the room or went to an underachievers class, until his sixteenth birthday. We have been together but a short time, but I already recognize that he is a smart man, who just can't read or write. Oh, I have a secret way of teaching him how to make "b's" and "d's", but as a tutor we use whatever works, for more information on my secret and other literacy methods, just contact me.
The final objective in Bob's Level 1 book requires him to write his name, address, and telephone number -- before we can move to the next book. That is a goal he looks forward to. Few of his family, friends or associates know he can't read or write, he has found a way through life with never having to perform the simple task of writing. When he bought his house, he just made his "X" on the papers; but he took his state-driving test in another town, where they read the problems to him.
Now, he is 57 years old, cannot write his name, but has set his ego aside, and enrolled in a literacy program. In six weeks, he will make out his first check, he will write a note to his wife, and he will make an entry in his journal.
He won't write the great American novel this year. But, by December his goal is write Christmas messages in each of his family's Christmas cards. All thanks to the volunteers at ProLiteracy America.
Most of us take writing for granted; we've always done it thanks to some pretty decent teachers. I'm just a neighbor-tutor, helping a really great guy to reach his personal goal. Sit down and write a manuscript today, and at the same time, say a prayer for my friend Bob, making his first "b's".
"dub" is a freelance Christian writer, best known for his straight forward approach to common issues. His 38 year professional writing career gives him keen insight into successful reporting. To contact dub email email@example.com