Kindle Forum banner

1 - 20 of 47 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,111 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a friend that is illiterate. Both of his parents are also illiterate and so is his older sister (but oddly enough not his brother) It is someone very close to me and it bothers me very much that he never learned to read or spell.

He can text message and he can figure things/words out sometimes(he has a cheat sheet with basic words on it).  But most of the time everything is misspelled and wrong.
I have complete compassion for anyone with this problem and I would gladly take any amount of time to help someone that asked or needed it.

The part the bothers me with him is that he is almost proud of not being able to read,write,spell etc. His family is very set in their ways and feel they are missing out on nothing by being illiterate. He will say all the time that him and his sister can't spell anything. He says that they need help in banks, post offices etc. If you are with him he will always ask how to spell certain words and if you try to help him rather than just TELL him the spelling he says "I don't want to learn I just want you to tell me"

It's not that I don't have sympathy and compassion for him because I do. But I promise you they are in an odd way proud of their setback.
I am by far not the best speller or grammar police but he is 28 and his sister is 32 and they both could barely finish a children's book without alot of assistance.

But they don't want assistance and it is not a prideful issue because they gladly ask to spell several words and they will ask you to read them letters,bills,menus etc. Its the point they don't want to actually learn to read. I have said several times that if he wanted me to help him 'learn' I'd be happy to help and/or find someone ALOT better than me because I am by no means an appropriate English teacher but I could help him and he said "why would I learn when I'm always with someone that will tell me how to spell or read it to me"

It's that exact mentality that I just can't get my head around! At first I thought he made light of his problem out of embarrassment or pride. But after several conversations about it I know for certain that him and his sister both just have absolutely no interest or want to learn. It boggles my mind.  I don't know if I am posting to vent or to ask for advice or just your general thoughts.

It seriously does bother me. I'm with this friend alot of the time because he works for my dad (as do I) and my dad's office is connected to their main house. BTW his part of the office work does not involve reading/spelling. At my parents house and when we meet casually he will see me reading my kindle often and he always says "I don't understand what would possess you to want to sit and read for hours on end, it makes no sense"

I don't EVER mind helping or giving him the spelling of a word, but I feel as if when I just tell him the spelling or meaning of a word or If I read something aloud to him is it really helping him? Especially when I know he will not and does not want to take the time or effort to learn. He says my whole family got by just fine so I don't need to learn just TELL ME!

I could go on all day with the countless ways it frustrates me, and please don't find me in-compassionate or if I sound degrading. I promise I do not try to ever publically put him down and I don't try to push education on him. When he brings it up I just merely try to show him how much better it would be if he took the time to learn. Learning isn't a bad thing.

Obviously at the end of the day it isn't really my problem and if it doesn't bother him than why do I care? But I do care and for me I would feel like I suffered tremendously if I couldn't read, I'd just love to see him learn on his own, even if only an elementary school level would benefit him.

Thank you for taking the time and reading all of this, I am just a concerned friend and I wouldn't feel right talking to my other friends about it in case it got back to him. I don't want him to think that I look down on him or his family because I don't. I would never think down on someone for that problem I just wish they/he would try to rise above it. Any comments/suggestions I am open to!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,111 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I went back and reread my entire post, I apologize for it being SO long. Thanks for bearing with me if you got through the whole thing and still found time to comment! :)
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
67,324 Posts
You know, we joke here a lot about being enablers, but this is a classic case. He asks you to spell a word for him or read something or him and you do. Your friend's problem (mind you, I am NOT Dr. Phil) is that "it's working for him". Why SHOULD he bother to learn if he can always find someone to help him out? There isn't much you can do except stop enabling. If he asks about a word, tell him you're happy to help him get into a literacy program (do some research first and have a place in mind that you can talk about every time he brings it up) but that you won't spell or read for him any more.

This will work best if you can get the rest of his 'enablers' to stop as well. Of course, it sounds like his family isn't going to be supportive, so you may be fighting an uphill battle no matter how many other folks are willing to encourage him. At first, at the least, he'll just find someone else, and it is very likely to jeopardize your friendship because he's possibly going to be embarrassed, since he may then have to ask a stranger, and very likely angry with you and think you're judging him and all that negative stuff. Still, if you can stick through it, you might eventually be able to get him to admit that he should learn and let you help him figure out how. But, he's got to want to.

I feel your frustration. . . .but you can't control what he does, only what you do and how you interact with him.

When he asks why you read books/kindle. . .you could have a particularly rich story available to flip to and read to him out loud. . .something that gets you into the story right away, or has particularly beautiful language. Read until he's hooked and then stop. Keep picking different passages from different works and stop at a crucial part . . . .maybe he'll get the message that his learning to read means he can find out what happens next. ;)

Again, I'm NOT Dr. Phil. . .heck, I never even took a psych course in college. . . so I could be totally blowing smoke. . . .
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
63,461 Posts
Wow, that's a difficult situation.

However, you can't make someone change, he or she has to want to change.  And if he or she thinks their life is fine as is, there's not much incentive to change.

What are his interests?  Perhaps if you found a book about whatever interested him, you could make him understand why you enjoy reading?

I have to say that I don't think not helping him is going to change anything other than eliminating you as a positive influence (because you're a reader); there will always be someone helping him and his sister.  :D  I do think that reading to him, as Ann says, is a great idea.

Betsy



 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
63,461 Posts
I'll add here that, according to a NY Times article from 2007, people with poor reading skills tend to not live as long. The article reads in part:

But, writing in the July 23 Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers say that one particular characteristic of a poor education, low reading skills, may alone account for much of the problem. The study was led by Dr. David W. Baker of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

The researchers based their findings on a study of 3,260 Medicare patients over more than five years.

At the beginning of the study, the patients were asked about their health and backgrounds and given a health literacy test that required reading and some math.

More than 60 percent of the patients were described as having adequate skills. But about a tenth were described as having marginal skills and a quarter as not literate. They were more likely to be older and nonwhite, the study said.

In the following years, those with inadequate reading skills were the most likely to die, even when overall education and other social factors were taken into account.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/31/health/31cons.html?_r=1

Betsy
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
11,848 Posts
Ann, your advice sounds really good.  Personally, I'm glad you're not Dr. Phil.  LOL.

koolmnbv, some people are very happy living in their own little worlds.  Some people do not possess an imagination.  Your story is frustrating on many levels.  Your reaction to this family is appropriate in my opinion.  This young man is 28.  Very young.  It is so aggrevating to me that he made it through some schooling without learning to read.  Even if he only went to the 3rd or 4th grade he should have been able to pick up something.  I'm not criticizing the teachers.  I know they are overworked.  But I am saying that somewhere along the line the ball gets dropped on some children. 

I think Ann is correct.  You can stop being an enabler.  You can set a good example by being a reader and showing how much you enjoy it.  And you can always point your friend and his sister in the right direction.  Your friend is illiterate, but it doesn't sound like he's stupid.  He has found a way to survive and perhaps you can be the person to show him there are better ways to survive in 2009. 
Good luck and keep up updated.
deb

 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
67,324 Posts
I've known several folks who learned to read well later than the usual age.  (How's that for politically correct?  Older than the traditional aged first grader? :D)  In all cases they had some reading disability, either dyslexia or something related or eye issues that didn't get diagnosed early enough.  In some cases teachers noticed a problem, in some cases parents, and in some cases neither until HS or college. 

I also worked one time at a day care center.  (If you knew me well, you'd know how weird that sounds.)  I was more or less the office manager and one of the caregivers who was there when I started couldn't read.  She was smart though, she'd use colors and shapes to figure stuff out.  Of course she couldn't do story time, but she knew her limitations and never gave any medicines or anything.  The kids loved her 'cause she'd get down on the floor and play with them rather than just standing and watching.

She was also The Hardest Worker by far. . . .many of the others felt they were too good to clean up the bathrooms if a toddler had an accident or a kid got sick.

Anyway, when the management above me found out she couldn't read, they were going to fire her.  I raised a stink. . . .instead, they enrolled her in an adult literacy program.  She got to learn to read -- which she wanted to do but didn't know how to -- and she got to keep her job as long as she stayed in the program.  Win-win for everyone.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,183 Posts
My experience is very limited.  The long and short of it was a 30 something man, through his wife and his AA sponsor, went into a literacy program and learned to read.  I'll never forget the quiet pride in his eyes when he announced he could read.  He was a good worker and, because he could read, was promoted at his job.

koolmnbv, you are a good person and I totally understand your frustration.  Your friend seems to have some desire to learn.  Would the brother that can read and write be someone that can encourage your friend to go to a literacy program? 

It is difficult to discontinue enabling, but somewhere, sometime, somehow your friend has to want to change so badly that he will do whatever it takes.  It is sometimes a fine line between being helpful and being enabling.  However, you must also protect yourself -- it can become too time consuming and emotionally draining and frustrating for you.  Been there done that.  Won't do it again.

You don't have the power to make people want to change.  If he doesn't want to change, it is not personal towards you.  He simply doesn't want to change.

Blessings to you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,932 Posts
I have little advice to offer beyond echoing that your friend would have to WANT to learn. As for what to do to bring that about, I think that if you simply stop helping him, other will just step in. And it may very well damage your friendship beyond repair.

I like the idea of reading him parts of stories and making him wonder about the rest. Or perhaps there is some other hobby (or a new topic that you can get him interested in) that entails looking up information. Even if you can get him to want to look up something on the web rather than in a book, that would be some progress.

I'm guessing that he is not married and has no kids. If he wants kids someday, would he want them to be able to read? The answer to that might tell you whether he thinks that literacy as a concept is unimportant or whether he just thinks it's of no interest to him. That in turn might help you figure out an "angle of attack". Even if it's just telling him that kids learn to read primarily from their parents, so if he ever wants the chain to end, someone has to be first.

If you're friends, he's probably a caring person who would do things to help his friends. Can you bring about a scenario (with scheming and a little manipulation if necessary ;D ) in which he finds himself needing to help someone else but can't because it would require reading? (In a made-for-tv movie this would be like having a family member come down with some rare disease and having to research a cure :p -- but I'm thinking of something much less dramatic, of course.)

And if all else fails.... he's made it this far, he has a job, and friends, and only a few hundred years ago he would have been in the majority. We're lucky that we live today in a time and place of mandatory schooling and near-universal literacy, but for most of the time since writing was invented, the vast majority of humans couldn't read (and in some parts of the world that's still true). So, sad as it seems to us, literacy isn't a requirement to leading a fulfilling life... small consolation in this case, I know, but if he's truly happy without books, in the end you may just have to let him be.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,005 Posts
Unfortunately about all you can do is continue providing the support you have and continue to point out that having to rely on others to read/write/spell for him is not going to be sufficient to continue to function in today's world.

You can continue to point out the kinds of things some of the others brought up and also point out that, unfortunately in today's economy no job is really truly safe and that the ability to read and fill out applications is an absolute must in order to get anything other than perhaps the most menial manual labor position. In addition, many companies now include some kind of reading/written evaluation as part of the interview process so just relying on somebody else to assist with the application won't cut it.

Anecdotal search for instances where people have been purposely mislead might provide further illustrations of the dangers of relying on others to read and/or interpret for you.

The comments regarding learning disabilities may be spot on. Unfortunately many many LD's still sneak through the cracks and go undiagnosed. You very well may be facing some here but only evaluation by experts int he field can determine that.

This is likely a problem that you are simply not going to be able to solve -- BUT there are a number of things you can do -- first off is continue as you have being supportive of your friend -- don't worry about being an "enabler" -- focus more on the role of advocate. Use what you have (i.e. the ability to read and access to resources such as the internet) to collect as much data as you can on the programs available to assist with adult illiteracy -- become an expert on what's out there. Unfortunately, as others have said, until they want to change you cannot make them, but you can prepare yourself so if there is "any crack in the armor" or any opportunity to step forward with assistance you are well prepared and informed. In the meantime, use your love of reading to try and illustrate the world your friend has been closed off from. The subtle hints of "I read an article about ..." in a conversation, or "there's a really good book by soandso that I read" about whatever might be of interest to them.Try and help them understand just exactly how ingrained reading is in today's society and how much they may be missing and how vulnerable they may be by not having at least rudimentary reading skills.

Frustrating -- I'm sure it is. Can you help your friend -- maybe, maybe not -- will what you learn and how you prepare help YOU out down the line -- most assuredly.

The world needs more people like you!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,681 Posts
This story is beyond sad to me.  I think of all the educational opportunities that are available to everybody in this country... and then about children in less fortunate countries who walk in their bare feet for miles just to go to school to learn to read.  I don't know how anybody could be proud of not being able to read unless they couldn't because of a disabilityor lack of opportunity.  
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,791 Posts
I'd continue to tell him how to spell words when he asks. He will learn how to spell that word once he writes it correctly enough times, it will just happen. You can't make another person sit down and learn to read if he doesn't want to. If heartfelt discussion hasn't worked I'd left it go for now and still answer his questions. Refusing to help him spell when he asks will just generate resentment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,815 Posts
drenee said:
Ann, your advice sounds really good. Personally, I'm glad you're not Dr. Phil. LOL.

koolmnbv, some people are very happy living in their own little worlds. Some people do not possess an imagination. Your story is frustrating on many levels. Your reaction to this family is appropriate in my opinion. This young man is 28. Very young. It is so aggrevating to me that he made it through some schooling without learning to read. Even if he only went to the 3rd or 4th grade he should have been able to pick up something. I'm not criticizing the teachers. I know they are overworked. But I am saying that somewhere along the line the ball gets dropped on some children.

I think Ann is correct. You can stop being an enabler. You can set a good example by being a reader and showing how much you enjoy it. And you can always point your friend and his sister in the right direction. Your friend is illiterate, but it doesn't sound like he's stupid. He has found a way to survive and perhaps you can be the person to show him there are better ways to survive in 2009.
Good luck and keep up updated.
deb
Exactly what I was wondering....I am a teacher, where did he go to school, that they let him slip thru the cracks?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
11,848 Posts
Meredith, that is an issue that bothers me greatly.  I'm really not trying to pick on teachers, because personally I could never do the job.  My sister, unfortunately, is one of those children that fell through the cracks.  She is handicapped and was going to school right about the time of inclusion.  She often missed many days of school each year because of hospital stays, pneumonia, and various other ailments.  She did have a homebound teacher on those occasions.  One or two times a week for a couple of hours.  Somehow she made it all the way through school and graduated.  But she did not make it through on grades or test scores.  She was simply moved through the system. 

Again, I understand the school systems cannot help everyone.  For years I volunteered at whatever local school I was living near.  Unfortunately, the unions have started opposing volunteers.  Their rationale is that if there is something for a volunteer to do then that should be a paying position, posted and filled.  Very aggravating. 

Sorry I got off topic. 
deb
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
384 Posts
If your friend does not want to know, you will never change his mind.  His problem lies with his family and their attitude toward literacy and not your inability to convince him to learn.

I do not think you are enabling him.  If you do not mind helping him with spelling and reading letters etc then you should.

This is just one of those sad examples of "each to his own".  Try to remind yourself that he is very happy with his life and his inabilities.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,404 Posts
ouch....I just don't understand being proud of it. I have a brother-in-law who is proud that he has never read a book. He told his young children that he didn't think reading was useful and proud that he didn't. I can't believe he said that to them! He can read if he wants to of course.

He I think is mainly lazy and being "proud" of it is a way to feel good about yourself when you shouldn't
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,981 Posts
Base don the story told above, I doubt that there is a problem with learning disabilities. Only one person in the family is literate. I think if there was a learning disability involved the family would happily use that excuse.

I have eight learning disabilities and know how easy it is for the school system to write a child off. My Mother was a pit bull and made sure that the school system did not screw me over. But she had to fight for everything that I was given. She went on to be an advocate for the learning disabled in order to teach parents how to advocate for their kids. The school system has an incentive to not provide services to kids and parents have to be tenacious in their battle to get their kids the help and support they deserve.

That said, the dyslexia has to be really severe to prevent someone from learning to read. My younger brother was not able to read until second or third grade because of his dyslexia. He graduated with an English Lit degree. It was not easy but he did it. With proper help you can learn to compensate. If you cannot, and that is unfortunately a possibility, there are books on tapes and other ways to "read".

It sounds to me like this is a family that is passing down bad habits. The parents don't read, so they never read to their kids. The kids mimicked their parents behavior. How they got through school baffles me.

Personally, I would stop reading to him. I do think that  you are enabling bad behavior. Yes, there are other people who are enabling him as well but that does not mean that you continue to do so. By reading to him, you are saying that his decision is fine and he can get buy without reading. He should learn enough to be able to live his day to day life without help. He might not ever read for pleasure but he should be able to read his own bank statement.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,304 Posts
koolmnbv said:
I have a friend that is illiterate. Both of his parents are also illiterate and so is his older sister (but oddly enough not his brother) It is someone very close to me and it bothers me very much that he never learned to read or spell.
Your whole post read like a horror story to me--as if someone actually wished to be crippled to the point of helplessness. Really disturbing.

CK

Edited to note (since advice was requested) that you can't help someone like that. Change is up to them.
 
1 - 20 of 47 Posts
Top