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7/5/2009 11:17:00 AM
Madison County literacy: Stigma a hurdle for adults

Herald Bulletin

By Dave Stafford, Herald Bulletin Staff Writer

ANDERSON -- Ginger Mills says she tells adults who want to learn to read to look for the yellow canopy.

That marks the spot at 200 E. 11th St., where about 50 people are learning to read or improving their literacy skills. More than 60 volunteers donate time weekly to help, including tutoring for people who do not speak English as their first language.

"Anybody who comes in here, we will find a way to provide them with assistance with reading," said Mills, executive director of the Madison County Literacy Coalition, which has helped hundreds of people from children to seniors since its founding in 1984.

But Mills acknowledge that help isn't always easy to ask for among people who lack an ability that most people take for granted.

"I think probably every person (who lacks literacy skills) has at least one confidant - one person who can help them read mail or whatever," Mills said. "Maybe a spouse knows, but for the most part, it's their secret. They carry that with them."

That's a situation Ed Castor of Windfall can relate to.

"I just was struggling with the written word and keeping it to myself in the workplace," Castor said. As a Delco Remy employee some 30 years ago, Castor read at about a third-grade level when he turned to the Literacy Coalition for help.

Castor, who's now retired, got his GED, went on to take courses at Anderson University and became an evangelist for literacy. "I helped the UAW and GM put together adult literacy programs in the workplace across the U.S. to help people get the skills they needed," he said.

Castor also became one of President George H.W. Bush's 1,000 Points of Light for his volunteer efforts and advocacy.

At the same time, he's an exception among adult learners, many of whom feel stigmatized and are reluctant to talk openly about learning to read at an advanced age.

"They have to come forward and they have to let someone know and find a program that can help them," Castor said. "It's confidential, private, it's between you and the program and no one else has to know about it.

"We all have downfalls in our life, certain things we can't do that others can do and things we can do others can't," Castor said. "I don't think there's that many people out there that don't want to know how to read and write, it's just finding that right door to walk through."

Related Stories:
• Madison County literacy: 1 in 7 adults has problems
• Madison County literacy: What every child should know
• Madison County literacy: Help them while they're young

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