Dallas program assists with English literacy for older students

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by SHELLY SLATER

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaashelly

WFAA

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 10 at 5:33 PM

DALLAS -- The facts are mind-blowing; illiteracy rates are growing faster than the population.

That's where LIFT, or Literacy Instruction For Texas, comes in. It's a group-privately funded and run by 350 volunteers.

"It takes so much courage for an adult to say, 'I can't read. I need help,'" said LIFT President and CEO Lisa Hembry.

But Maria Rincon did it.

"I start with the A-B-C sounds," she said. She took that major step after she couldn't read English to her 18-month-old grandson.

"Do you want to do something better for your life, better for your family, better for your community?" Rincon said. "And when you start it, you cannot stop."

Students, like Maria, are usually here for 18 months, working on a reading method with five decades of history. It costs only $20 for three-to-five months of instruction.

Dallas has a big word problem, and that is what LIFT is all about fixing. Right now, one-in-five people can't read, and that number is getting worse.

In the next 15 years, they say it will be one of every three.

"The number was too staggering for me to believe, so I had to find out more," LIFT volunteer Doug Butler said.

Butler didn't believe the statistics until he walked in these doors. Now this lawyer is a teacher, too.

"You are dealing with a lot of people mid-life who, if you can believe it, have made it through life without reading," he said.
 

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He calls it "therapeutic" to watch students evolve from day one to graduation -- not just with reading, but in life.

"We cry, we cry. Our adults learners cry, our volunteers cry," said CEO Hembry, "because it's such an amazingly empowering ability."
 


Maria said the process is an emotional journey.

It's one that won't stop, as one day, her grandson will recognize that he was the catalyst who made her go for it.

"When grandmother can read to him in English, I will tell him you were my inspiration," Rincon said.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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