By Lily Contorer
Eyes beaming from behind her fashionable new glasses, Gina stated proudly, “I’ve read more books this year than I ever have before in my life!” In fact, when she perused the shelf of free books at the Literacy Council, Gina couldn’t choose just one. She walked away with three novels she intended to read with her tutor of seven years, Day Ann Emory.
Gina doesn’t remember much schooling from her childhood years. When she was five or six years old and enrolled in kindergarten, Gina was molested by her neighbor. She says, “All I remember when I was little was my mind was always on what happened to me and I didn’t hear what my teacher was saying and I didn’t see what she was doing. I just missed it. I don’t remember learning anything. I was in my own little world. This went on for a long time.” Traumatized by the abuse, Gina missed out on the basics of reading such as rhyming games, discovering patterns in words, learning the sounds that letters make and understanding the idea that syllables form words. She did not catch up in later school years. Gina was tested and it was determined that she had a learning disability.
She said, “In the second or third grade, they put me in special education classes. I was having problems. I was too scared and embarrassed to ask for help. I didn’t know if I could trust people and I didn’t know what I was missing.” Gina went on to graduate high school. She says, “I just kept getting promoted but I wasn’t learning. I tried to avoid reading in front of people. I was always able to just memorize things and that helped me pass tests but I really couldn’t read them. I walked with my class for graduation but I don’t know if I really deserved to graduate.”
Eventually, Gina found a job working with mentally handicapped people. She says, “I had to write progress notes and I knew that would be a problem for me. I worked for them for eleven years and I learned ways of getting by. I learned by reading other peoples’ notes and then I could write something similar to them. People I worked with were not aware I had a problem. But I hurt my back on the job and then I got real depressed. I have been taking medicine for depression for years.”
People were not always kind to Gina with regard to her reading struggles. Gina says, “They said that I’m dumb. I remember this one girl I knew since high school and then we ended up working together later on. We was enjoying time after work with people and this girl said, ’Oh, she’s simpleminded.’ Stuff like that hurt. I remember how that hurt.” Because of experiences like these, it took Gina a long time to trust her husband and her in-laws with her reading struggles. Eventually, she let down her defenses and found them to be her allies. She says, “It was frustrating to have to ask them how what this word is or how to spell that. But I just had to get over my embarrassment.”
Gina decided to call the Literacy Council. “I finally found my tutor, Day Ann. I told her that I don’t know the rules or the sounds that letters make. Day Ann brought in phonics and taught me from the beginning. She has been the best tutor. She went about different ways to get it in my head. She had unique ways to explain things to me.” Now, Gina is excited about reading novels. She says, “If I get interested in a book I want to read, I can’t stop reading it. I want to keep reading it to see what happened.”
Gina may not have a favorite book but she does have a favorite article. She says, “I read an article in the newspaper about my son’s football team. He plays for Erwin Middle School. They interviewed a lot of kids but his part was the longest. He had the most lines and he is the star. I read the article and it said how many touchdowns they had and how many yards they ran. My son helped the team turn around their losing streak.” Gina has dreams for her son’s future. ”I want him to concentrate on his reading so he can get A’s and B’s and he can go to Alabama for college if he reads good enough.”
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, Gina Poore, is another in a series of inspiring stories about those whose lives The Literacy Council has improved.
To learn more about becoming a student or a volunteer tutor with the Literacy Council of Buncombe County, please visit www.litcouncil.com or email Lily Contorer at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call Lily at 828-254-3442 x202 to learn more.