When health issues prevented AJ from working, she started to look for something meaningful to do with her time.

She found that meaning in tutoring adults through MSC’s Adult Basic Education program.

For the last year and a half, AJ has met twice a week with Emmett, a 71-year-old gentleman, to help him learn how to read. “Teaching an adult learner is so different than when I was a teaching assistant in college. I was always begging the students to get stuff done. Emmett, as an adult learner, is eager to learn and curious.”

“Emmett’s parents were sharecroppers in Mississippi, and Emmett went to school sporadically, if at all, because he helped his family. As an adult he became a welder. Now he’s older, he’d like to learn to read,” says AJ.

AJ and Emmett started out slowly reading books Emmett would bring in. They looked at mail and other printed materials. “We’d be slowly moving through something, and then it would just click for Emmett. He was on fire!” shares AJ.

“Teaching someone to read is much more than teaching them how the letters form a word and words form a sentence, it’s also about how to read with comprehension,” says AJ. “We’re working on navigating the internet now and how to read things on a web page. For instance, how to distinguish what is the actual content of the page and what is an advertisement. If you have been able to read all your life, you don’t realize how fast you can read and comprehend. For someone who’s never read before, they need to take it word by word, and really think about it. It’s been an honor to work with Emmett. He’s had such an amazing life.”

It is estimated that one in seven people are functionally illiterate, meaning that they are unable to read, write, or comprehend at the expected level to function in daily life. MSC’s Adult Basic Education serves adults age 18 or older and is tailored to meet their needs. Each student sets their own goals, and then works one-on-one with a volunteer tutor. Instruction is offered in a relaxed and supportive environment designed to help the student succeed.