The TRUTH About Reading

wednesdays with wayne Aug 31, 2022

A few decades ago, while earning my PhD, I was working as an employee assistance counselor. One of the major railroads was in our client services group. And one day, a man comes into my office dressed in overalls, he pulls his newspaper from his back pocket and lays it on the desk as he sits down. 


He looked distraught.

Was he here for help with drugs or alcohol?

Was he here for his relationship that’d gone badly?


I’d pretty much heard it all. And I was eager to help.


After I asked him how I could help him, noting that he looked almost defeated and that I was there to help him, his gaze slid up from his shoes to meet my eyes.


“The department of transportation is changing their rules.”


“Oh, and that affects you?”


“Yes sir. I’m an engineer.”


“Of the big trains? That’s awesome.” I smiled, truly awe-struck. My thoughts fleeted - That’s a lot of responsibility and not something I could do, that’s for sure.


“Yes,” came the simple reply. His eyes dropping again, comfort being found in tracing the dusty cracks of the tiled floor.


“So how can I help you?”


“There are new rules coming out from the Department of Transportation. They want me to take a test.”


“Oh, you need help preparing for…”


He cut me off… tears welling in his eyes – 


“I can’t read.”


My face dropped. My eyes darted to the newspaper he’d set on the desk and back to meet his. I offered him a box of tissues. He was embarrassed. I needed to make it okay for him to tell me the rest of his story.


“I can’t read,” he said. “Every day, I’ll get up and get ready for work. I’ll head down to the diner and buy a newspaper outside. I’ll fold the newspaper up and put it in my back pocket. Then, while I’m getting my morning coffee and breakfast, I’ll watch the news. I’ll pull out my paper and see if there’s anything in it that looks like what’s on TV. Then, when I get to work, I’ll have the newspaper in my back pocket and can talk about the news. People will think I can read.”


My mind was whirring. I’d heard a lot from people, literally, I had heard stories of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. But I’d never heard this.

His preparation and ability to simply get by in the world was so elaborate.


And now, his world was crashing down because there was a test that he couldn’t take in order to keep his job. And this man who couldn’t read was in charge of thousands and thousands of tons of steel heading on rails from here to who knows where. 


I had to help him. And I had to learn more about how to help him.


Since then, I’ve learned that illiteracy is a hidden, embarrassing, and completely correctable problem for people of ALL walks of life from fast food restaurant workers to teachers and other professionals (yes, really). 


There’s a hidden crisis in America. 

Right now, the statistics are that 21% of adults in America are illiterate. And worse, this will shock you, 54% of adults in America have a literacy level measured at below a 6th grade level.


Think about it. If 54% of American adults are functionally illiterate and 21% are categorically illiterate, you’ve met them and may not know.


The world needs critical thinkers.

The world needs people who can read and synthesize information.

The world needs us, the fortunate 46%, who can read above a sixth-grade level.


I’m blessed to have you as a reader of my blog. And it’s an honor to say that I am supporting a documentary about literacy in America.

The Truth About Reading is a film worth seeing when it comes out. It’s going to expose the school system as we know it. But it’s not a “gotcha” film. It’s about the way back from the troubles we, as a country and as a world, have gotten into.


I invite you to watch this trailer on YouTube: 


I’m a fan of learning and helping others to grow and learn. 

You don’t have to be passionate about literacy. 

I am. I’d simply encourage you to find something that matters to you, bigger than you, and support it in a way that will make a difference in the world.


Most people didn’t know that I care about literacy that way. I do. I care about reading. And I care about our youth and adults having financial literacy, as well.


Look out for The Truth About Reading.


Find your passion for helping others.


Take action, even if it’s just a little action. Every little action does help.


And yes, with the train engineer, I got him into a program. His eyes lit up and his smile broadened the next time I saw him. He was on his way.


Keep making YOUR magic.


I’ll see you here next week!


= Wayne = 


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