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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Writing (01/11/07)

TITLE: The Elusive "b"
By dub W


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 dont 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 doesnt 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 cant read or write. Oh, I have a secret way of teaching him how to make bs and ds, 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 cant 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 wont write the great American novel this year. But, by December his goal is write Christmas messages in each of his familys Christmas cards.

Most of us take writing for granted; weve always done it thanks to some pretty decent teachers. Im 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 bs.

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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This article has been read 841 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 01/18/07
This is obviously something you feel extremely passionate about - I can feel that passion throughout this informative, interesting piece. I caught some punctuation issues, otherwise this definitely kept my attention.
cindy yarger01/20/07
Well done. This was very touching. I hope that you win just because of the content. Very poignant conclusion with the contrast of those who can write for an audience and those who can't write at all. Meaningful!
Jeanette Oestermyer01/20/07
This is so true. I enjoyed the piece.

God Bless
william price01/20/07
Very well communicated. Got the message loud and clear. God bless.
darlene hight01/21/07
I have a very good friend who is an ESL teacher. We really do not understand how blessed we are that we received that simple education but also that it came easy. So many people just have difficulty learning, they certainly wouldn't take our gift lightly. Thanks for the great reminder!
terri tiffany01/21/07
Great job! The ending tugged at my heart - you wrote it in a good informative style.
Donna Powers 01/21/07
A wonderful piece. I can definitely see that your heart is invested in the quest for literacy. I had no idea it was so prevalant and I am glad you shared the story in order for us to personalize it by getting to know "Bob".
Marilee Alvey01/21/07
Loved it! I taught Basic Ed for quite a few years. I would work on the numbers 1, 2 and 3 all year, only to start over the next year....with adults. Reading was out of the question with them. I have taught at a snail's pace! After my experience, I praise God whenever I sign my name to a check, or recite my telephone number. You have renewed my sense of gratitude. Great job!
Chuck Livermore01/22/07
A well-written, poignant piece. This isn't the type of writing we usually see on the challenge but I enjoyed it. Maybe because of that reason.
Gregory Kane01/22/07
I liked the way you used clear examples that the reader could identify with: the grid lines for elementary school and the embarrassment of only being able to mark a X when required to sign for something. This turned what could have been a dry and didactic piece into something much more personal. I felt uncomfortable with the secrecy surrounding your literary techniques. This might well be appropriate for a community newspaper where your name is given and people can write in, but Im not sure that it works for the FaithWriters challenge.
Jan Ackerson 01/24/07
Aw, Dub, this just breaks my heart--and shames me for griping about my own writing woes. Oh, boo hoo, I didn't place...I'll remember this next time I get the "pities." Thanks for writing this.
Joanney Uthe01/24/07
Great job personalizing an often overlooked problem. Working in a preschool, I know how hard it is for many to learn to write as well as the joy of victory when they succeed. I like how you stessed the little victories of Bob's life as more important than the unreachable goal. Keep up the good work.
Sara Harricharan 01/24/07
This was interesting to read, it has a lot of heart. Thanks for sharing.
Betty Castleberry01/24/07
This is a great awareness piece. It's well written, and thought-provoking as well. Kudos for this.
Loren T. Lowery01/24/07
I know exactly what you are expressing here. I've been involved with adult literacy for years; and your article speaks volums about the silent victories of many of my former students.