Literacy Council of Buncombe County: “Sara”


The Literacy Council of Buncombe County teaches adults and children basic reading, writing, math, and English language skills through individual and small group instruction by trained volunteers. Students gain self-confidence and develop self-sufficiency to transform their lives as individuals, parents, workers, and citizens. The Literacy Council, a non-profit organization accredited by ProLiteracy America and serving the community since 1987, provides highly individualized tutoring to fit the needs of over 300 students in three core programs – Adult Education, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and the Augustine Project. This profile of student, “Sara”, is another in a series of inspiring stories about those whose lives The Literacy Council has improved.


Students use a kinesthetic technique called “tapping” to isolate sounds in words. This word has three sounds but four letters.

Students use a kinesthetic technique
called “tapping” to isolate sounds in
words. This word has three sounds but
four letters.

Nobody knows Sara struggles with reading… and she is married with two grown daughters. She says, “I just don’t want them to know because I don’t want them to be ashamed of me. I know they think I’m lazy and I don’t care about things happening in the world because I don’t read the newspaper but I do care. I just don’t want them to know I can’t read it. I think one day I might tell my kids because they feel hurt when I don’t answer their emails and they think I don’t care about them and I know that.”


Sara grew up in an alcoholic family and was not expected to go to school. She thinks she finished the 10th grade before she dropped out but she had missed a lot of school by then and couldn’t catch up. Sara couldn’t focus at school and, other than physical education class, she didn’t like it very much. Sara also hated living at home. She moved out while still very young and got a job cleaning houses. She survived and eventually married and started a family.


Because Sara keeps her reading struggles a secret, she has:


• Gotten lost a lot–she has trouble with street signs and maps
• Chosen to stay at home instead of getting lost
• Isolated herself
• Lost friends
• Missed out on daily news–unless it was reported on TV
• Smiled and nodded when she didn’t really understand
• Offended family members
• Created distance in relationships
• Filled out forms without knowing what they said
• Signed contracts without reading them
• Paid bills late
• Paid way too much for a car–and many other items
• Struggled to read important information sent to her by mail
• Lost or quit jobs
• Pretended she had vision problems when she couldn’t avoid reading in front of people
• Bought the wrong item at the store
• Refused to buy a computer
• Never set up her cell phone
• Accidentally taken the wrong medication
• Gotten sick
• Felt stupid, depressed and lonely
• Struggled to find safe housing
• Nearly been homeless


Sara is not alone. Many adults who struggle with reading, writing and spelling choose to keep the same secret despite significant life consequences. According to The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (Department of Education),in the U.S. today, there are 30 million adults who can’t read better than the average third grader. And without basic reading, writing, math, and computer skills, these Americans are struggling to find jobs, stay healthy, and support their families.


Luckily, Sara found the Literacy Council of Buncombe County. She has been working with a tutor for over three years and has made significant progress in all areas of literacy. Her tutor works with her on reading, writing and spelling skills following a specific curriculum and brings in real- life materials. Sara says, “My tutor helps me read my mail and understand what my doctor says for me to do. And we read the newspaper together so that I can talk to people about things that happen in the world. I am so glad you guys are here because I know I have a place to go and I don’t have to be embarrassed when I don’t know what something says. “



Lily Contorer
Adult Ed. Director
Augustine Project Director
828-254-3442 x 202
[email protected]


Literacy Council of Buncombe County
31 College Place, Suite B-221
Asheville, NC 28801

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